Taking the field……..

……another pause in the prison series for an update.

…since the last posting on September 23/18

This writer enjoyed an opportunity to catch up with two former business associates at a recent social event. Both had retired at senior positions in their respective fields, and our mutual respect and admiration form a bond of friendship that transcends our less than frequent contacts.

Brennan Guigue’s action against Correctional Service of Canada intrigues them but each of these two men comes at it from a different perspective. For one, this is a matter of an inmate standing up to a corrupted system that too often abuses its power over men and women who face perceived credibility challenges on the one hand, and don’t have the resources to hold their captors to account on the other. The second of the two is baffled by a conundrum that has public servants acting against their oaths, their employer’s policy and rules, and even the law while apparently sheltered under an umbrella of impunity.

As concerning as this situation may be to them, they’re not motivated to do anything more than take a peek under that rock, comment with a shake of the head, and move on. That underscores the importance of Brennan Guigue’s action, a variance on “speaking truth to power.” Here is one person who is telling the government that it can’t do what it wants just because it can.

As a ‘by the way’, another access to information request this fall again asked CSC for the employment status of the guards involved in the July, 2014 assault. The guard who videotaped the event has left the Service, but the others are still working for the prison system. How many other inmates have they targeted in the last four years?

The March 12 inscription date in 2019 looks like a go, and Brennan and his lawyer are meeting with government lawyers early next year. The services of an expert witness are beginning to gel, and the pace is ramping up….slow and steady…. as the road ahead is focused on the resolution in the distance.

Moving forward. Always moving forward.

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“Please sir, I want some more.”

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is found in the street as an infant and put in a workhouse by the age of nine where he and other boys unravel old rope. In the workhouse Oliver is the victim of slow starvation, the diet consisting of three small bowlfuls of oatmeal gruel per day, an onion twice a week and a roll on Sunday. Under this regimen which reduces the boys to living skeletons, Oliver and his companions become voraciously hungry.
At last they hold a council and choose by lot one among them to ask the overseer for more gruel. The victim of the lottery is Oliver Twist. The time arrives, and ‘desperate with hunger and reckless with misery’, Oliver gets up from the table and walks slowly to the master, basin and spoon in hand…….
“Please, sir, I want some more.”
Oliver got nothing but trouble.

)()(

Pivot to the 21st century and our federal prisons today in this country, and to two examples of how Correctional Service of Canada keeps offenders “desperate with hunger and reckless with misery.” We’ll look at just one of those examples here.

FOOD: The previous federal government under Stephen Harper ordered ministerial across-the-board cost-cutting measures. Correctional Service of Canada followed suit, finding economies that would primarily impact inmates, whose concerns CSC need not consider or address.

Food was one target, and the Service initiated a “Cook Chill” process, bulk preparation, cooled and distributed to institutions for reconstitution and heating. Were there complaints about food quality and serving sizes? Absolutely. There still are. And worse, economies decreased spending to $5.41 per day per inmate, a 2600 daily caloric intake which is recommended for a low activity male, aged 31 – 50! Not as severe as Oliver’s three daily bowls of gruel but leaving inmates hungry all the same. And, not exactly the conditions conducive for offenders to be “well-prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives” upon release.

“If you don’t have something going on the side, you’ll starve!”, said one source.

But wait. Prison inmates can purchase additional food from a canteen, although why they should have to do that just to supplement a poor diet is grounds for argument.

Hold it! Buying food from the canteen takes money. We’ll get to that next time.

A slap in the face: a pat on the back!

This interruption in the prison series brought to you by staff at Millhaven Institution. The letter and notes reprinted here are self-explanatory. (Note – PFV – 3-day private family visit)

November 12, 2018

K. Lollar, Correctional Manager,
Millhaven Institution,
5775 Bath Road, P.O. Box 280,
Bath, ON K0H 1G0

Re: Representation to Visitor Review Board re November 9 PFV

Correctional Manager Lollar:

Now I know with certainty. I’ve become a victim, too. I’m not pleased, and don’t appreciate the unnecessary experience I had on November 9.

After more than thirty years of advocacy, I know not everyone at Correctional Service of Canada is on the same page. Internal adherence/support for policies and procedures can vary and fluctuate, regardless of the Service’s public face. That this can negatively impact members of the public and the offenders to whom they are connected is regrettable.

For the sake of brevity here, I’ve attached three pages of my personal notes from that morning when I attempted to check in for a PFV with my son, Brennan Guigue. That there are no steps to counter a CSC position is not acceptable in the face of the mandate to foster positive interaction between offenders and their families.

I was not bringing contraband into Millhaven. Period! I know that. The people in Ontario and Quebec who help me move around and live comfortably given my present circumstances support that.

I believe I deserve an explanation that goes beyond simply that the drug dog “indicated” on me, given there were prior multiple passes.

I want the names of the officer who checked my property and meds, and the officer who handled the drug dog.

I deserve consideration for the expenses incurred in making this trip, and for PFV supplies.

I would go so far as to suggest an apology from CSC is in order.

And, I have one final request from the Visitor Review Board. No matter the outcome of your deliberations, and as much as I want a PFV with my son, there is no point in approving my participation in this program without some assurance that every staff member with whom I come into contact is in agreement.

With that, I’ll leave you to your work.

Charles H. Klassen

cc: Crystal Thompson, Warden, Millhaven Institution
Deputy Warden, Millhaven Institution
SIO Department, Millhaven Institution
Sector Coordinator P. Osypchuck, V & C
Correctional Manager Mike Kirkwood
Deputy Commissioner – CSC Regional Headquarters – Ontario
Assistant Commissioner – Correctional Operations & Programs – NHQ
Brennan Guigue

)()(

November 11, 2018

MILLHAVEN INSTITUTION THREE-DAY PFV WITH BRENNAN GUIGUE

A summary of the morning of November 9, 2018 from c. 8:55am until c. 11:30am:-

My Kingston area hosts drove me to the Millhaven Institution reception building, arriving just prior to 9am.

I presented my passport to the officer who signed me in. She used my watch for the ion scan, gave me a lock and key, called V & C (I assumed) to say I’d arrived, and offered me a seat for the few minutes wait.
I put the cloth bag holding my document case containing papers I studied on the trip, along with wallet, cash/coin, keys, into the locker.
I then had only my passport and the key to the locker on my person.

A guard arrived from V & C a few minutes later with papers from Ms P. Osypchuck, Sector Coordinator for V & C, referencing an inspection of my ankle and knee braces. I moved property for the PFV from my suitcase to one from the institution. I removed my right shoe and Richie Brace and it was put through the scanner. The guard checked the knee brace. He inspected the prescription meds, and the suitcase was put through the scanner. The guard stowed my case in a tight-fitting unused locked, and I walked through the scanner and was cleared.

I followed him outside, dragging the suitcase behind me, and through the perimeter security fencing onto the prison grounds. He was ahead of me carrying the bag of medications.

An employee behind me lifted my case up the few steps to the V & C entrance. Once inside, I put it against the wall of the lobby, and the guard ushered me to a locked office a few feet away to the right and showed me the four small lockers where the meds would be stored. He explained the routine. He needed two lockers for my meds, and still had to put one item on a shelf.

We exited that office and my bag was laying flat on the floor against the wall of the lobby, open and awaiting inspection by the drug dog. The guard in charge of the dog positioned me, brought the dog from its kennel a few feet away and made the usual multi-sweep of me and my bag. The guard put the dog back in the kennel, asked me to stand with my back against the wall, and again brought out the dog. It reached up with one paw to just above my waist, dropped back to the floor, sniffed my right shoe and sat down.

Ms Osypchuck was watching at this point from her office door a few feet away. She told me the dog had “indicated” on me and a superior would have to be called. It was to take 10 to 15 minutes and she brought a chair out of her office for me.

Over the next while, staff members came and went through the entrance and the guard who had been my escort stayed for a time, but was eventually called away. The guard handling the dog left with the dog and returned alone a few minutes later and went into Officer Osypchuck’s office. I was told it was taking longer than expected to bring someone to the lobby but it would be only a few more minutes.

(I didn’t realize ‘til later but Correctional Manager K. Lollar in charge of this area was not available and another Correctional Manager was called.)

Correctional Manager Mike Kirkwood arrived, went into Ms Osypchuck’s office and closed the door. I could hear the conversation although not what was being discussed, but after a very few minutes, I did hear her say, “You can speak to him if you want.”

All this time, I had been sitting quietly in the lobby, observing the movement around me, but not interacting with anyone.

CM Kirkwood stepped out of the office, introduced himself and asked me to join them. Someone retrieved the chair I’d been using as it was needed. The dog-handler was bent over the desk completing a form which he handed to CM Kirkwood and then left.
CM Kirkland sat a few feet from me, shuffling papers in his hand. He looked at me and said something to the effect of, “can you tell me anything to explain what had happened.” I assured him I wasn’t bringing contraband into the institution, I couldn’t explain what had happened, and asked how I could show that was the case.

This briefly went back and forth, he referenced circumstances at Kingston Penitentiary many years prior, and also spoke about mail sent to Brennan Guigue which didn’t have a return address as a component of concern, along with what had just occurred with the dog. I told him I sent mail to Brennan weekly, always with a return address. In retrospect I should have pursued the matter of mail, and how it had anything to do with this day. The question of the dog and my right foot arose and Ms Osypchuck told him the brace had been checked at reception.

CM Kirkwood then said he had to speak with the warden and left. Ms. Osypchuck suggested I could stay where I was while she worked. Twenty minutes and more passed. There were short and mostly unrelated exchanges between Ms. Osypchuck and me, including a request for water which she accommodated. I did bring up how one counters the question at hand, and she said if I was referring to strip searches, in the 24 years she’d been with CSC, not once had a warden authorized the strip search of a visitor.

CM Kirkwood returned eventually, walking purposefully into the office, saying, “I have bad news.” He had conferred with the warden, deputy warden, I believe security was involved, and the decision was taken to cancel the PFV. My only interjection, the only one I could make, was to question how I could reassure them. I was more than a little surprised to be caught up in this.

I assume that if it was not for the drug dog, the next step would have been for the escort to supply razors to replace my electric razor before going to the PFV unit.
Also, Ms Osypchuck told me during an October 11 telephone conversation that the institution would supply a substitute for the Depends Guards I use at night.

CM Kirkwood asked Ms Osypchuck about groceries, which had apparently been delivered, and then asked if I could take them. I declined as that wasn’t possible. I was told I had five days to respond to what they were to give me. Ms Osypchuck indicated it was better to say something rather than nothing.

A ‘Letter To Visitor On “Positive Indication Using Non-Intrusive Search Tools”’ was prepared, and both CM Kirkwood and Ms Osypchuck escorted me to reception. Mr. Kirkwood dialed my hosts’ phone number so I was able to arrange for a pick up and he left. Ms Osypchuck added her name and number to the letter, suggesting I call her for an email address to use for my presentation. The groceries in four boxes were on the floor of reception, apparently to be donated to a food bank.

I was picked up shortly after, and left. It was about 11:30am.

How kind of Correctional Service of Canada to validate my work. That is this farce’s one takeaway .

Bob’s “Blue Wall”

……….Robert Clark weighed in on another road block “to ensure that when offenders return to their communities, they are well-prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.” (From Minister Goodale’s mandate letter to CSC Commissioner Kelly-September 2018)

Robert Clark retired from Correctional Service of Canada in 2009, rising through the ranks to become a deputy warden, and later authored “Down Inside: 30 Years In Canada’s Prison Service”, published last year. Experience taught him the culture within our federal prison system didn’t support positive outcomes for inmates, and in his dismayed opinion, that culture wasn’t likely to change. That doesn’t bode well for Ralph Goodale’s mandate to new CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly.

Mr. Clark also testified in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in July of last year at a lawsuit the BC Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society brought against Canada over CSC’s use of solitary confinement. (The BCCLA & John Howard won this action.) In his testimony, he talked about “the blue wall”, a code of secrecy where guards cover up for each other, an unwritten code that says correctional officers cannot “rat” on other guards.

Quoting from the July 19, 2017 Globe and Mail, “Mr. Clark testified there is considerable racism within the correctional service and a culture of collective indifference. He said employees often reach a point where they believe inmates are not worthy of their time and energy.”

When asked, Correctional Service of Canada in Ottawa released a statement claiming employees are expected to act in accordance with legal and ethical standards and are subject to a code of discipline. “We do not tolerate any breach of our policies and all allegations are thoroughly investigated regardless of the source.”

Now, the bulk if not all complaints against officers would come from inmates. Please refer to “inmates always lie” from “The Firewall” (November 4), and “the blue wall” above to assess the probable effectiveness of CSC investigations.

Robert Clark then guested on CBC FM Radio’s “The Current” on August 27 of this year to comment on an inmate strike in the U.S. Relating this to his perspective of Canada’s prisons, he told his host that the majority of staff in Canadian prisons is indifferent to the plight and rehabilitation of inmates.

He noted the move away from dynamic security in which guards and inmates interact, to static security where contact is limited, as an example of a regressive measure.

The Firewall…….

…..how special interests within Correctional Service of Canada silences dissent and voices that need to be heard.

The October 21st posting ended by suggesting fairy tales can be brought to life.

In last year’s March 26th, “Cells for sale or rent,” the Netherlands had accomplished the enviable feat of emptying about a third of its prison cells through crime-reducing measures, and an emphasis on rehabilitation over incarceration. But, 2600 surplus prison guards became a political headache, and eclipsed the benefits of repurposing underused prisons and the more important achievement for progressive prison reform.

Why?

Job security is important for us all. And, just as in Holland, a thriving prison industry in Canada keeps many thousands of men and women employed, and not only with Correctional Service of Canada.

It’s been pointed out before that any other enterprise that had a failure rate as high as it is almost everywhere in the western world’s prisons would be dismantled and begun again from scratch.

If the success of a “correctional” system was measured more by the efficacy of its mandate to rehabilitate and less on only assessing risks to the community, input from the men and women who would benefit most from a “correctional” system is essential.

That doesn’t happen. That doesn’t happen because that is a risk to the status quo. It doesn’t happen because that is a risk to job security.

Prison staff, prison guards and the unions that so ably represent them have a mantra, a maxim that has multiple articulations but basically boils down to, “Inmates always lie. Guards are always truthful.” It’s become an ingrained watchword, a firewall against including the “governed” in decisions that affect their future.

What’s more, what’s worse, that won’t change under current CSC culture.

Too bad for it. Too bad for us.

Updating ‘alternative facts’…….

Updating ‘alternative facts’…… 

…….policing in the age of video

………prison postings return next week.

From a February 5th posting last year:-

“Waseem Khan was in downtown Toronto with his wife on the last Tuesday morning in January, taking his daughter to daycare. He saw one in a group of police officers pull a man from the back seat of a cruiser, put him face down on the ground, and then kick the man in the head. Khan stopped after witnessing that, took out his phone, and began recording from about 20 feet away.
The video shows an officer stomping on the man’s legs, telling him to “stop resisting”, even though the man was motionless and may have been unconscious. Two officers approached Khan, telling him to stop recording, threatening to take his phone as evidence (which they cannot do), and suggesting the man under police control might spit at him and transmit AIDS (which is not true). Khan stopped recording shortly after, but filed a complaint, calling police behavior ‘disgusting’.”

Khan’s complaint to the Office of Independent Police Review Director was investigated and charges of discreditable conduct and use of excessive force were laid against Sgt. Eduardo Miranda.

At a tribunal hearing last week, Mr. Khan received an apology from the sergeant. Both charges were withdrawn following mediation facilitated by the OIPRD, and a settlement which does have any financial component is confidential. Both Waseem Khan and his lawyer believe the apology is sincere. Toronto Police said they were also reviewing its use-of-force protocols and intended to address misinformation about the transmission of the AIDS virus.

After the incident last year, police spokespeople had suggested that the video did not tell the whole story, and ‘alternative facts’ (although that terminology was not used) played a role in what was recorded by Mr. Khan’s phone.

We raise two points:
The police knew they were being recorded in January of 2017, yet events unfolded as filmed. What doesn’t get recorded when a camera isn’t around?
The video didn’t tell the whole story police say. That’s correct. But we asked a question to conclude that posting back on February 5, 2017….and the tribunal didn’t answer it.

“…under what circumstance is it okay for a police officer to kick a prone man in the head?”

“Once Upon a Time…..”

…….a beginning for the fantasies we’d like to make reality.

For years, the home page of the Correctional Service of Canada’s web site highlighted a Mission Statement that hit all the right notes, committing the Service to the highest ideals for a prison agency prioritizing safe communities through progressive rehabilitation programming for the men and women offenders under its charge.

Well, web sites get updated, refreshed and refined. Somewhere along the way, that Mission Statement disappeared from the site. To CSC critics, it always had little connection to day to day real-life operations in Canada’s federal prisons.

)()(

Anne Kelly replaced Don Head as commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada in July of this year. After 35 years of experience with CSC, she’s as aware of the Service’s strengths and weaknesses as her predecessor.

Nonetheless, to suggest “recommended areas of focus”, her political boss Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, wrote a long Commissioner’s Mandate Letter in September, unusual in that it was made public and published on the CSC web site.

Quoting a core paragraph, published in part in our ‘”Corrections” in Canada? Really?’ on September 30:-
“As Commissioner, you play a key role in ensuring that CSC protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people serving federal sentence. Your responsibility to Canadians is to ensure that when offenders return to their communities, they are well-prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives; your responsibility to CSC employees is to ensure that they have a safe and supportive workplace in which to carry out the Service’s mandate; your responsibility to victims of crime is to ensure that they receive the compassion, respect and information from CSC to which they are entitled; and your responsibility to the people in your custody is to ensure that they receive the programming, interventions and treatment they require, in an environment that is safe, secure and humane.”

A tall order…..and worth a read of the entire document. We wrote the minister:-

October 9, 2018

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa

Re: Commissioner’s mandate letter – 2018-09-05

Dear Minister Goodale:

I’m a Correctional Service of Canada ‘specialist’, and first took notice of our federal prison service about 50 years ago, tentatively stepped onto the field as an activist in the mid 1980s, and developed a concerned interest 21 years ago after leaving behind a business career.

A Mission Statement that once headed CSC’s web site home page disappeared long ago. Your September mandate letter to new Commissioner Anne Kelly is a noble and fearless directive, a worthy successor to the earlier undertaking. That your letter is published in its entirety on the CSC site is a bold endorsement of an enlightened future for the Service.

Unfortunately, over many years of CSC observation and research, the distance between the ideal and the practice is a chasm, making the Office of the Correctional Investigator a necessity. A firewall supported by special interests within the Service regrettably silences the voices of clients/patients/offenders whose input must be essential in measuring the efficacy of CSC’s work towards its better purpose.

By copy of this letter, I’m suggesting that Commissioner Kelly make your letter required reading by all CSC staff members, citing its goals as hard targets, and not whimsical options.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc Anne Kelly, Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Next time, we’ll begin to look at how fairy tales can be brought to life.