Margaret Wente on the return of Conrad Black:
Margaret Atwood is delighted that Conrad Black is coming back to Canada. “He has a lot to say and contribute,” she e-mailed from New York on Wednesday. But she thinks the Harper government may not be delighted. Lord Black, she notes, “is now a very informed and outspoken commentator on prison reform, and does not think the government’s expensive mega-jails plan will work.”
Believe it or not, Ms. Atwood and Lord Black have become BFF. When Payback, her book on debt, came out in 2008, he gave it a favourable review from his jail cell. She likes his book too. “Conrad Black’s A Matter of Principle is a fascinating, erudite, & defiant prison memoir — must-read for lawyers, politicos, & gossips alike!” she tweeted after it came out last fall. Lord Black even made a guest appearance in the new documentary based on her book. At the premiere, she declared that he is “a new and different kind of Conrad.”
[. . .]
During his 37 months as a guest of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Lord Black experienced several jailhouse conversions. Most notably, he became an impassioned advocate for prison reform. U.S. prisons, he argues, are full of millions of innocent, near-innocent, impoverished, unlucky wretches who are victims of “the carceral state.” He is convinced that the war on drugs is an abject failure, and he has called the Harper government’s crime policies “sadistic and malicious.” Not even Mr. Mulcair went that far.
Lord Black has also fallen out of love with the United States, a nation he once idolized. “Its greatness survives, certainly, despite chronic misgovernment, but my affection for it has faded,” he has written. Last fall he wrote that after his release, “I will leave the United States forever, all passion spent.” He has also rekindled a genuine appreciation for Canada, a nation he harshly criticized for years. The rapacious capitalism he once celebrated is less attractive to him now. He seems to have developed — dare I say it? — a social conscience.