I read a news item recently that amazed me. Former Saskatchewan cabinet minister and convicted wife killer, Colin Thatcher, had to return his horse which he had been riding on the maximum security prison grounds when some envious person blew the whistle on him. I always thought that our judicial and prison system were heading towards the dumpster but I didn’t think they were going that fast.You have poor Linda Gibbons heading for a fifth year in jail for trying to counsel women outside an abortion mill not to kill their own unborn babies, and Colin in jail out riding a horse!

I heard that they had transferred Colin to this new maximum security prison in Alberta, property that the federal government had expropriated recently, and I just couldn’t wait to see it. I was astounded by the luxury of the place until a cab driver informed me that it used to be the Banff Springs Hotel! This was an internationally known posh holiday resort. Now it’s known as “The Wild West Citizen Rehabilitation Clinic.”

The warden (wearing a 10-gallon hat) told me that “This ain’t no gulag. Nothing is too good for our ‘incarcerated citizens.'” (They don’t use the word “prisoner” any more.)

I asked where the fences were.

“What?” he snorted. “Fences would only ruin the vista – screen the view of the ski trails, the horse trails, the trees and the mountains.”

I asked, “Aren’t you afraid of them escaping?”

“Are you crazy?” he responded. “All we have to do is mention the word ‘Kingston’ and they’re back in their beds at night. You just can’t get in here by breaking a store window. We only cater to the real nasties. Some of these guys are so bad that even their mothers won’t write to them.”

Suddenly a guy on a horse thunders by on a trail leading from the stables, forcing us to leap out of the way to escape with our lives.

The superintendent snorts, “That Colin Thatcher has no manners! He’s going to kill someone one of these days! I’m going to have to speak to him again. He’s going to lose his privileges if he keeps this up.”

“I thought they took away his horse,” I said.

“That was for a photo op. He got it back two weeks later. Colin has got too many friends in high places who owe him a favour.”

“You said that Colin could lose some privileges if he continues to act up?”

“Yes, no steak for breakfast. No Crown Royal for lunch. No Grand Marnier after dinner. Colin could also lose his Bing Crosby suite, which is absolutely gorgeous! Bing Crosby actually slept there, you know! Tenth floor, corner view, 15-foot ceiling, glass all the way up, spectacular view of snow-capped mountains all year round … But one more infraction and Colin’s out of there.”

“Do other skiers object to sharing the slopes with these guys?”

“Are you kidding? You don’t want to pick a fight with them! Even I’m afraid of them. Can I show you our chapel?”

“Yes, by all means.”

“I should warn you that the ICs …”

I interrupted him. “The ICs?”

“The ‘incarcerated citizens.'”

“Oh, yeah.”

“They decided that it wasn’t getting much use, so they voted to change the chapel into a bar. It’s like an old English pub, absolutely delightful. We can stop there and have a drink before you leave.”

“No, thanks.” I said. “What’s this big wing over here?”

“There’s nothing in that wing. And there never will be.”

“You mean ‘nothing'”?

“Yes. It’s a symbol of all the people who should be in jail and aren’t and likely never will be. Rather touching, isn’t it?”

“No!” I exclaimed. “People would kill to get in this place. Criminals will be clamouring to get in here. This is not a prison stretch for them – it’s a vacation!”

“You are not aware of our problem. The federal government is planning to let half the people out of jail on parole by the year 2000! We’ve got to make our jails so attractive that the criminal element will resist parole. This is the cruel world of competition. The government has got us over a barrel. It’s criminal what they are doing to us! Please let us have your Linda Gibbons.”

I shook my head in disbelief, and said, “I think I’m ready to go to your chapel now.”