Monday, August 09, 2010

No-Crime and Punishment: A True Story

We have an informal policy here at Type M not to talk politics. Our emphasis is on books, mainly crime books, and the art of writing. However, once in a while real-life crime and politics overlap, so here I go.

One of the most (in)famous people in Canada is a fellow by the name of Conrad Black, AKA Lord Black of Crossharbour, recently AKA Prisoner Number X.

To give a brief history, Conrad was once a wealthy man. By your and my standards he probably still is, although not by his own. From a wealthy and influential family, he made most of his money in newspapers and founded a national newspaper in Canada in order to spread his right-wing views. Conrad was honoured by British Prime Minister Tony Blair by being offered a Lordship and a seat in Britain’s House of Lords. Not so fast, said the Canadian Prime Minister of the day, if Black wanted to take his seat in the Lords he would have to give up his Canadian citizenship. A public battle raged for a while, and then Black did abandon Canada in a huff, donned the ermine robes and moved to England.

Not too many years later Black found himself in serious trouble in the United States for reasons to do with the conduct of his businesses affairs which I will not bother to go into here. He was tried, convicted, fined and jailed. Suddenly Black discovered how much he loved his home and native land. He asked to be allowed to serve his prison sentence in Canada and was turned down as he isn’t a citizen.

Last month his conviction was dramatically overturned and he was released. He now, sob, wants to come back to his family home in Canada particularly because of his wife’s, snort, ill-health. However, as a non-citizen who has been convicted of a crime he won’t be allowed across the border.

All of which is only an introduction to the point of this piece. Infamous for allegedly looting his own companies and his rumoured contempt towards the working classes, Conrad has undergone a considerable change of view in his two-plus-years in jail. Funny how being on the inside, seeing how the rest of the world actually lives, can change one’s perspective.

He has an article in today’s National Post (the right-wing paper he founded) titled My Prison Education. I quote briefly: “It had been an interesting experience, from which I developed a much greater practical knowledge than I had ever had before of those who had drawn a short straw from the system.” “I saw at close range the failure of the U.S. War on Drugs, with absurd sentences, (including 20 years for marijuana offences, although 42% of Americans have used marijuana and it is the greatest cash crop in California.) A trillion dollars have been spent, a million easily replaceable small fry are in prison, and the targeted substances are more available and of better quality than ever, while producing countries such as Colombia and Mexico are in a state of civil war.” He continues and the article is well worth reading particularly considering where it is coming from. Click here to read Conrad Black.

In a similar vein Linwood Barclay, the hugely-popular thriller author, has a hilarious send-up in the Globe and Mail today of our current government’s plans to greatly expand the prison system and their recent justification for it. Because there is an increase in ‘unreported’ crime. Click here to read Linwood.

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