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.

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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.

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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.

What’s a screwdriver?

Vodka and orange juice is one……
…..the Government of Canada is too.

….another pause in prison postings…..

“What does it take…..” from May 20 earlier this year focused on the federal government’s attempts to bedevil Abousfian Abdelrazik’s lawsuit against Canada and CSIS for its neglect back in 2003 and the years following. In it, we published a letter to Ralph Goodale.

The Justice Department walked away from a mediation session at the 11th hour and referred media to Public Safety Minister Goodale for comment. The government opted to let Mr. Abdelrazik’s action go to court, a move that “will cost us all more in the end, and looks to be a safe political option to deflect criticism of a pre-emptive settlement,” we wrote. There was no response from Mr. Goodale.

A trial date for this $27 million claim was set for September 14, later rescheduled to the 17th.

Then came a Toronto Star story late in August suggesting that “as many as 35 witnesses could appear during the eight-week proceedings in Ottawa,” including Liberal and Conservative MPs and senators. One notable exception who was refusing to testify was Peter Harder, the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs. He was invoking his legal privilege as a senator to avoid appearing in court.

The article went on to underscore that while the federal government settled lawsuits against Canada for its role in the imprisonment abroad of Maher Arar, Omar Khadr, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmed Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin as examples, it had abruptly cancelled mediation talks with Abousfian Abdelrazik and his lawyers.

We sent Senator Harder a brief letter criticizing his decision to excuse himself from “the right thing to do.”

But, this Canada, our country, had a surprise for Mr. Abelrazik.

The Toronto Star and Globe and Mail published similar columns from their respective Ottawa bureaus on September 19. “Judge halts man’s case against CSIS, feds,” said the Star, complimenting the Globe’s “Judge agrees to delay torture lawsuit.”

Justice Martine St-Louis “reluctantly” decided on the previous day to indefinitely delay the trial, granting the Crown’s request for a “long-term adjournment.” The Crown argued the trial should be put off while another court undertook a “national security” review of the 5,500 redacted documents that had already been released to Abdelrazik. The judge did order federal lawyers to provide monthly reports on how the review was progressing and granted Mr. Abdelrazik’s legal team “all costs in preparation of the trial that have been thrown away” because of the adjournment.

This stall tactic is fueled by the politics of fear, and is most certainly not “the right thing to do.”

What’s a screwdriver? Look to Ottawa.

“Corrections” in Canada? Really?

…..fact or fiction…

Every public service job comes with knee pads…virtual knee pads, and that goes for everyone from the Queen on down. Fortunately, she never has to be reminded of what duty and service means. Would that were the case for all our civil servants.

According to Minister Ralph Goodale’s recent mandate letter to the new commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada “protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people serving a 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.”

The man has got to be kidding! Is the minister so far removed from reality to not know what’s going on in his own department? Or, is he simply feeding us approved jibber-jabber.

Look at the Correctional Service of Canada website…..www.csc-scc.gc.ca. One would think it’s heaven-sent to save society from itself rather than hell-bent on preserving a failed “prison industry.”

The breadth and depth of moral and ethical corruption in our prison industry earns it a place on Michael Moore’s “to-do list.” We’re sticking it to the federal system here, but the same applies to its provincial counterparts.

As one seasoned inmate put it, “In spite of the decades of work by organizations and activist individuals to persuade or force Correctional Service of Canada to adhere to its own rules, policies, procedures…..and the law……nothing ever, ever, ever, ever changes.”

What is truly discouraging is the degree to which Canadians choose to look the other way, in spite of the danger on their doorsteps posed by CSC practices.

Samson vs the Philistines

……..a pause in our regular programming to bring you the latest updates…

…..since the last posting on May 13/18…….

September 12 was the inscription date for this action against Correctional Service of Canada, the date when the two parties were to go before the Court with their ducks in a row to set a trial date. On the day before, Quebec Superior Court Justice Julien Lanctot granted Kalman Sameuls Attorneys, who represent Brennan Guigue, a postponement until March 12th, 2019.

Why?

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There was a delay in obtaining Brennan’s complete prison medical records from CSC’s Access to Information & Privacy section.
Brennan’s request was dated March 6th with a note the records were to be sent to his lawyers in Montreal. The usual and regular practice stipulates an acknowledgement and receipt for the fee is issued by CSC within 30 days, with a reference file number attached. This didn’t happen, and a miscommunication between client and lawyer slowed a follow-up. The search didn’t begin until late July.
The lawyer in charge of the Brennan’s file made several calls but was unable to connect with the CSC ATIP office. A fax got their attention. Initially, the CSC’s Ms Martine Gauthier claimed the request had not been received. It wasn’t until she received a copy of the original request and cheque, noting the fee had been processed on March 29, that a further search showed this was in their system, and admitted a mistake had been made.
An expedited copy of the health records was finally received in Montreal on September 10.

In a August 30th letter to his lawyers, Brennan raised numerous points, and he questioned two areas likely to arise in the medical records. First, there would be the conflict between the Regional Reception Centre healthcare department’s cavalier assessment justifying the use-of-force, and the RRC warden’s conflicting admission in other documentation on file. Secondly, there was Donnacona’s healthcare unit’s refusal to assess, record or photograph the effects of the assault in the weeks following the initial incident.

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Kalman Samuels wanted to interview the RCC warden. Correctional Service of Canada apparently has the legal high ground in deciding who it would offer for an out of court examination, and while the firm pressed the matter, in the end it accepted Correctional Manager Supprien Hodnick, a Correctional Manager on duty at RCC at the time of the incident in 2014.
That examination took place on September 21.

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The search for a “pepper spray” expert defense witness was extensive. This is a necessity, Brennan was told, and one in particular surfaced. All candidates were American but Brennan questioned why a Canadian was not in the running.
According to his lawyers, there are a few Canadians qualified for this work, but no Canadian expert will testify against the government!
Let’s repeat that. No Canadian ‘expert’ will testify against the government, fearing reprisal and retribution.
This is the nature of the beast, our beast, like it or not.

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The request for yet another postponement was up to the judge, Brennan was warned, but Justice Lanctot was persuaded the extension was reasonable. March 12th, 2019 is therefore the new inscription date.