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CAPP chair on task force to look at private prisons.

Local resident on task force to look at prisons.
Janis Leering: The Midland Mirror 08/05/02

Penetanguishene resident Sharon Dion is used to being surrounded by scraps of paper about the jail, and now she'll have even more after joining a task force created to examine private prisons in North America.

Dion, who started the Penetanguishene Citizens Against Private Prisons group several years ago, is the only Canadian member on the task force, which was created a few weeks ago to focus on public safety.

"I think I was asked to participate because I've done a lot of research here. I think I was picked because of what I've learned, and because this is the only private prison in Canada, we have the first one," said Dion.

She travelled to Alpine, Wyoming, a few weeks ago to meet with others who are concerned about privatizing the prison system in North America. "This is the first time that there was a conference on the issue. There were 14 of us, and we talked about issues such as public safety, finances, the effects of private prisons on communities, human rights, liabilities and hidden costs."

Experts from Alaska, Florida, New York and Washington went to the conference, where it was decided a task force would be created to make a report about the problems with a privatized system.

"Our goal is to review the data that's out there on private prisons, and issue a report, which will be a template for concerned citizens.

"It's unknown when the report will be completed, because it will take some time to gather information."

Dion said she plans to give the report to other communities that are thinking about a privatized system.

"Alberta and British Columbia are now considering it, and the Liberal government is also contemplating the idea. This proves that I'm not after any one party, this is a grass roots, non-partisan group."

Dion said it was wonderful to be able to discuss the private prison system with so many like-minded individuals from all over the continent.

"I'm pleased to be part of this dynamic team. When we were in Wyoming, we had to keep the war stories down, but in the evening we talked about our own experiences."

Richard Loud is the president of Corrections USA, a non-profit coalition of correctional officers from the United States, and he said since Sept. 11, the issue of private security has come to the forefront.

"As the nation grapples with the devastating consequences of private security at our nation's airports, the ill-conceived movement to turn the critical public safety function of corrections over to for-profit private enterprise must be challenged," said Loud.

"The citizens of this country would never allow our firefighters, the military, or our police forces to be turned over to private enterprise. Public safety should not be for sale to the lowest bidder."

Dion will continue to correspond with representatives from the task force over the Internet.

Members on the task force include Ira Robbins, a professor of Law at American University; Judith Greene, a Soros Senior Justice Fellow; Ryan Sherman, an attorney; and Brian Dawe, executive director of Corrections USA.

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