Persistence……and Right…..

… ‘City Hall’.

Toronto’s Globe and Mail ran Patrick White’s “How a self-represented inmate fought and won release from solitary” in late summer.

This is a story we should never have to read. This is an example of what should not happen. And it wouldn’t, if our public servants followed the rules of their own making, using the authority we give them, obeyed the laws of the land, our land, and understood it is the people’s agenda and the people’s best interests that are paramount.

His name is Matthew Hamm. He’s a 37 year-old convict with multiple mental health diagnoses who has spent almost half his life in prison for various non-violent offences.

Near the end of June of this year, he and four other inmates at Edmonton Institution were moved from a mental-health unit to segregation. Guards assured them the change was unofficial and temporary, but soon after, the extra time out of their cells stopped and they were locked up for 23 hours a day. Officials then claimed the reason for the segregation placement was a confidential informant’s statement that the inmates were planning to attack several guards.

The information was baseless, and the informant later recanted his charges in writing, saying he had created the allegations because staff had offered to move him from segregation and get him a television. Nothing changed for Matthew Hamm and the four others, and “they (staff) didn’t seem to care.”

Mr. Hamm had learned habeus corpus law while serving an earlier sentence in a Saskatchewan federal prison when he challenged an arbitrary security classification, representing himself. He now took Correctional Service of Canada to court again, and again representing himself. Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice J.B. Veit gave Mr. Hamm considerable leeway to present his arguments and at one point he spoke for five straight hours. The hearing lasted three and half days.

The 44 page decision came down on August 10, Prisoners’ Justice Day. The court accepted his arguments and ordered the immediate release of the inmates from segregation. Matthew Hamm did this knowing he had only a very few months left on his sentence, and knowing too that once he began his action, guards in the prison would harass and inconvenience him at every turn. And, that is not the end of it; now he has to file in federal court to have the false allegations removed from his file.

To repeat, this is not about one inmate, one ‘criminal’ beating the system. The back story here is the significant relevance. This is about a public institution, one of our tax-payer funded federal prisons, that makes a wrong decision, perhaps well-intended, but negatively affecting five people in its charge, and then does nothing to correct the error. Not only that, but it encumbers the efforts of one individual seeking redress through the courts, waits to be ordered to follow its own policies, and of course won’t comment pending a review which might include an appeal.

And, all on your dollar!


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