The Current

Prisoners fight for access to porn behind bars

A federal case in Canada is looking over the right of Corrections Canada to deny pornography on cable channels paid by inmates. The ban of porn in jails is being challenged by legal experts and prisoners saying it's a basic human right and research shows access to pornography curbs sexual violence. *Audio posted momentarily*
Experts say that pornography can serve an important function to prisoners who are deprived of many of their rights behind bars. (Global Panorama, Flickr cc)
Listen23:38

Life, behind bars is something most people will experience only via what we see on TV. Therefore, a life most people will never really understand.

For example....Did you know that prisoners can pool their money, to purchase a cable TV package?  That's exactly what Haris Naraine and his fellow prisoners did, after he was admitted to a medium security prison in Quebec. The cable package they bought, not unlike one you might have at home, showed more adult fare after 11 p.m. 

Ehor Boyanowsky, associate professor of criminology, supports prisoners' access to porn because research shows access to pornography curbs sexual violence. (Rennett Stowe, Flickr cc)
 But in 2013, the prison cut off access to those channels.... meaning no more pornographic films for the prisoners.

Haris Naraine didn't think that was fair. So, while still behind bars at Archambault Prison, he filed a grievance... which eventually went to federal court. The judge agreed that banning the channels was not legal.

But in the meantime, Quebec's public security minister declared last month that she was in her words "horrified" to learn prisoners could view pornography and vowed to install parental controls on prison TVs.

Correctional Services Canada is still reviewing the court ruling and the policy. Haris Naraine is now out of prison on parole.  But he's still watching the case closely. His lawyer Todd Sloan also joined the conservation.

We did request interviews with Correctional Services Canada and with Quebec's Public Security Minister. Neither was available.

One way of considering whether prisoners should have access to pornography, would be to ask what kind of an effect pornography is likely to have on their behaviour.

Ehor Boyanowsky is an associate professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University.

In the United States prison wardens have the right to decide how much access to sexually explicit material prisoners can have.  And as in Canada, there has been a vociferous opposition to allowing free access to pornography for prisoners. 

Robin Jackson is one such opponent. She is a defence attorney with Senn Legal, which specializes in representing public service workers such as prison officials, police and firefighters. 
 

What do you think about access to pornography inside prison? And if you're a prisoner, or a former prisoner, we'd certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts?

Send us an email. We're also on Facebook or find us on Twitter @TheCurrentCBC.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Sujata Berry, Julian Uzielli and Lara O'Brien.
 

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