The September 25 posting to Justice for Brennan Guigue, “What say you, Minister?”, was prompted by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s response to the death of inmate Matthew Hines at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick on May 27 in 2015.
CBC News has added two additional postings on this – “Correctional service admits ‘staff misconduct’ in inmate’s death”, and, “Prison watchdog investigates death of N.B. inmate pepper-sprayed 5 times by guards”
The ‘prison watchdog’ is Howard Sapers, Canada’s Correctional Investigator. He’s been looking into this since Matthew Hines died when his department’s investigation asked how and why guards beat and then repeatedly pepper-sprayed the inmate before his death. According to Sapers, his office has been held up by one missing piece, the New Brunswick coroner’s report showing a definitive cause of death.
Correctional Service of Canada cites privacy legislation which prevents it from discussing specifics of Matthew Hines death, or why the original story CSC offered of the incident differs from its own investigative report issued more than a year later.
Likewise, Ralph Goodale’s office won’t comment beyond the statement it released on August 24 because of the ongoing CSC investigation.
Canada’s privacy legislation has been a boon to our government ministries. Correctional Service of Canada makes frequent use of it. In the matter of Matthew Hines, CSC is still referencing it even though the principal is dead.
In the meantime, the RCMP has reopened its investigation into this death-in-custody. Initially, foul play was ruled out and the file was closed, but “additional information” has persuaded the police to take another look, although it wouldn’t say what new information was uncovered.
Scott Harris, the CSC regional deputy commissioner for the Atlantic region, admitted there was “staff misconduct” and “excessive force” in the case of Matthew Hines. One staff member was fired and three others have been disciplined. “We take this case very seriously and we’re trying to learn from it,” Harris said.
CSC’s internal board of investigation found at least 12 instances where staff did not follow policy. Harris’ statement listed changes the agency is making because of this death-in-custody, including more front-line staff training with the handling of mental health issues.
Scott Harris followed what seems to be Correctional Service of Canada’s standard operating policy when it concedes there’s been an operational wrongdoing. Use privacy legislation to limit disclosure, underscore the serious concern for policy violations, announce the changes that are intended, and express an intention to learn from the experience. We shouldn’t discount CSC’s sincerity when its spokespersons toe this line. There are no doubt components within the system that have the best interests of all stakeholders in mind. But, neither is there any question about what lessons can be learned and by whom and for what purpose. It depends on perspective. To Don Head, the Commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada, the in-custody death of an inmate where policy and human rights violations are in evidence are black marks his already beleaguered department can do without. To the tiers of management working under him, how professionally misadventures like the mistreatment of inmates are handled when information becomes public may impact future career outcomes. To the guards in our prisons and their immediate institutional superiors, one of their own has been fired and three others disciplined (although we can’t know what that entails) following the investigation of this event. Minimizing public exposure in all aspects of job performance is a priority. Remember that Brennan Guigue was removed from RCC in Montreal within hours after the OC assault, sent to Donnacona (CSC had to make room for him on a ‘load’), immediately placed in segregation there to keep him out of sight, and the institution’s health care unit refused to document his injuries.
Matthew Hines two sisters have hired a lawyer.