Posts Tagged ‘crime’
Raizel Robin’s long-form article in Toronto Life, “The $1-Billion Hellhole”, makes the case that the very new Toronto South Detention Centre–only three years old!–is already terribly dysfunctional thanks to any number of problems from staff issues to design flaws, this after having been built at tremendous financial cost to the province.
Before the South opened on January 27, 2014, Ontario’s provincial jails were notorious for being overcrowded, medieval, violent places. The second Don Jail, completed in 1958, wasn’t much better than the original: rats and cockroaches scurried about and black mould grew on walls. Three inmates were often crammed into four-by-eight-foot cells meant for two, with the third man sleeping on the floor, his head next to the toilet. The Toronto West Detention Centre in Rexdale, built in 1976 and retrofitted in the 1990s, was almost as overcrowded and had become a money pit.
In 2008, the Liberals under Premier Dalton McGuinty approved plans for a new, more progressive facility. McGuinty wanted Ontario’s jails to reflect modern incarceration philosophy, which emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment. The new superjail, the Toronto South Detention Centre, would be capable of housing 1,650 inmates—50 per cent more capacity than the Don and the West combined—making it Canada’s second-largest jail, after the Edmonton Remand Centre. When it came to selecting an architect, the Liberals chose Zeidler, the prestigious firm behind the Eaton Centre’s soaring galleria and the old Ontario Place.
Visit the South today and, were it not for the receptionists seated behind protective glass or the chairs bolted to the floor, the airy three-storey reception area, with its exposed brick and skylit entryway, could pass for a condo lobby. The 73,000-square-metre building, which is LEED Silver certified with a ground-source heat exchanger and low-flush toilets, occupies the site of the former Mimico Correctional Centre in south Etobicoke. Behind the main building are three seven-storey, sand-coloured towers, set off from each other at slight angles. The effect is more chic New Mexico college than imposing superjail.
Inside, there are spaces for Aboriginal inmates to hold sweat lodge or smudging ceremonies, two multi-faith spaces with footbaths for Muslim inmates, a state-of-the-art 35-bed infirmary and a 26-bed mental health assessment unit. The seven-by-16-foot cells are spacious compared to the Don. The units, made up of 20 cells each, are split into two floors and arranged around a communal living room like motel suites surrounding a pool.
Initially, the South seemed like a double-pronged victory for the Liberals: the facility was praised for its design, and the construction process was relatively cost-effective—an important consideration for a government trying to slay a $10.5-billion deficit and manage the fallout from the gas plant scandal. Still, the total bill to the taxpayer was hefty: $1.1 billion, which was to be paid out over 30 years.
Derek Hawkins’ Washington Post article describes how the “black bloc”, anarchist rioters who riot in their identity-hiding all-black uniforms, is making a comeback. I’m decidedly not impressed by this, not least since I remember what they did to downtown Toronto during the G20 protests in 2010, and how the black bloc rioters went out of their way to undermine peaceful protesters. Looking to the cowards too afraid of revealing their identities to meaningfully commit to change would be a terrible, terrible mistake.
An oft-cited history of “black bloc” tactics by Daniel Dylan Young of A-Infos, a multilingual anarchist news and information service, suggests that the practice has its roots in Germany in the late 1970s. At the time, hoards of young people had taken residence in vacant buildings in inner cities, setting up cooperative houses in the bowels of abandoned warehouses and tenements. Similar communities cropped up in the Netherlands, Denmark and elsewhere in Northern Europe.
In 1980, however, the city governments began to crack down. German authorities evicted and arrested thousands of squatters that winter, triggering protests across the country, one of which turned violent in Berlin, with rioters destroying an upscale shopping area, according to Young.
“In response to violent state oppression radical activists developed the tactic of the Black Bloc,” Young wrote in 2001. By masking up in black, he wrote, activists “could more effectively fend off police attacks, without being singled out as individuals for arrest and harassment later on.”
The tactic spread to Amsterdam and other cities with large squatter populations. Toward the end of the decade, protesters were making wide use of it. In summer 1987, when President Ronald Reagan delivered his famous “tear down this wall” speech in West Berlin, he was met by tens of thousands of protesters, including a 2,000-person “black bloc,” as the New York Times reported then.
It’s not clear exactly when “black bloc” tactics crossed the Atlantic, but two large protests in 1990 — one in Washington against the Gulf War, the other in San Francisco against Columbus Day — were both disrupted by black-clad groups that destroyed downtown property, according to Young.
The tactic was hardly ever more visible than it was during the massive protests against the 1999 World Trade Organization summit in Seattle. Demonstrations began peacefully, but several hundred “black bloc” activists — described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at the time as “masked anarchists wearing black” — smashed windows, looted stores and vandalized buildings. The confrontation, dubbed the “Battle in Seattle,” delayed the start of the meeting and cast a shadow over the proceedings.