Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Camp Nathan Smith, Kandahar, Nov. 17, 2008. Correctional Service Canada representative Paula Milino speaks with the Director of Education and Training, Colonel Mohammad Ismail, at the Sarpoza Prison in Kandahar City.

Captain Adam Thomson

Few institutions in Afghanistan have enjoyed as much Canadian largesse as this stone-walled prison in Kandahar city.

In the aftermath of the last jailbreak three years ago, there was a $2-million building program that improved Sarpoza's gates, walls and towers. And those were only the visible upgrades. In total, Ottawa committed $5-million to a complete overhaul of the facility and its staffing.

Three officials from Correctional Service Canada made regular visits. They were sent to train guards and teach them about human rights, a concept that didn't exist within the walls of the Afghan penal system. Canadian military engineers helped oversee the building projects.

Story continues below advertisement

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon visited the centre in 2009 to highlight the Canadian government's focus on improving "police, courts and corrections." Those three aspects of the Afghan state are notoriously inept and corrupt, but within the walls of Sarpoza, the minister could point to visible progress.

Canadians gave the jail new septic systems, solar-powered lighting, a staff training room, an infirmary, an armoury, a carpentry workshop and other facilities. Painted walls replaced the raw stone surfaces; pieces of masonry used to fall on prisoners as they slept, but Canadian money had paid for smooth new ceilings.

More recent projects had included a 12-day "security self-awareness" course for female guards, and renovations to the medical unit.

Despite the deaths and damage the jailbreak three years ago inflicted, Canadian officials said the incident gave them a chance to renovate.

"It provided the opportunity to do more systematic and advanced training with Sarpoza senior management and the prison guards," Elissa Golberg, who served as Canada's top diplomat in Kandahar, said in a statement on a government website.

Roland Paris, an international affairs professor at the University of Ottawa, said the government presented the millions of dollars spent - and Canadian efforts in the field - as the continuing contribution to a model facility.

"It certainly raises serious questions about all of the money the government put into making this a model prison - and that's how it was presented," Prof. Paris said.

Story continues below advertisement

Even some prison officials bemoan the wasted effort, as they contemplated the empty cells in their national-security wing.

"We had good weapons, and many police, and foreign troops were nearby every night," said a senior prison official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Last night all these things were present, all our forces, we had enough preparation for fighting. But we did not fight. Why? That is a big question."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies