A day in the life….goes on and on….

…..at Toronto South Detention Centre

CO Casciani and Sgt. Tsenga have moved Brennan Guigue and his cell mate for no apparent or genuine reason other than “maintenance”, which we know is bogus. Brennan’s in cell #5, bunking with Michael Saraphin. We pick it up from there.

It’s Friday, February 19, 2016 at 7:15pm

Now, I’ve seen Mike on the unit, but we have never spoken. He keeps to himself is mostly quiet. I think it’s not too bad….WRONG!
By Saturday afternoon, Mike has filled me in on most – if not all – of the aspects (according to him) of current incarceration.
According to him, the provincial welfare (OW) office is defrauding him of due dollars, forging cheque stubs/payments for food, travel, etc.
Anyway, Mike is convinced that he has been wronged and the current issue (of many) presently is that he refuses to sign a rental agreement form in order to receive about $500 more than what he currently receives from ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Plan). He feels it would be a violation of his privacy rights.

For the last 5 years or so, he has been engaged in a personal battle with the Wellesley/Jarvis OW office, City Hall, even as high as the Ontario Premier’s office.
He has sent accusatory letters to ALL. So many in fact that he has previously been charged with criminal harassment, AND is currently back in jail for the same, as he has refused to comply with a court ordered ‘cease and desist’ order.

When I say this guy’s got a SERIOUS glitch goin’ on, I ain’t kiddin! Hundreds of letters…..to ALL members of city council, even to Kathleen Wynne’s office.
Now, I think I’m a pretty intelligent guy and the more I listened to his argument, the more holes I begin to see in his theory.

So I asked him….”What do you want to accomplish with your…..campaign?”
He says he wants them to publicly acknowledge that he was in fact defrauded, an overhaul of the welfare system (as the corruption is systemic)….AND, he wants financial compensation for the past 5 years of unpaid monies he feels he’s owed!

HOLY!….is this guy for real?

Many of the questions I put to him, he avoids. The more I challenge his ideology, the more upset he becomes. I tell him that after 5 years of battling without results, maybe it’s time to move on….

NOPE!

So then, I point out that what he’s asking for is too much….NEVER gonna happen. Look at yourself….in jail just to prove a point? Crazy! He does NOT like talking to me.
We end the conversation and he goes to bed. Sunday morning, we wake up for breakfast and he begins to question me as to how much ‘damage’ I think he’ll endure before the guards come and break up the fight? I tell him I don’t know, probably just 1 or 2 punches before the guards intervene…..why?

Then it occur to me…..’This guy wants to further his position of being a victim, and strengthen his argument that the city, and the government are targeting him simply because he’s standing up to a corrupt system.’ The cops kicked in his door, beat him up, dragged him – in handcuffs – off to jail unlawfully, and now his personal safety has been put at risk, as he is being housed with violent criminals! When I put this to him, he admits that ‘it’s an idea’. He had court in a week (February 29th) so time was short, and he had to execute his plan soon.

We talked about who would be the best to pick a fight with; you know, minimal damage and all that. I told him, “I don’t know, but whatever you do, PLEASE DON’T PICK ME! I’ve got too much to worry about with facing possible D.O. status, and I don’t need no misconducts for fighting or assault.” He doesn’t respond.

I lay down for an afternoon nap; he paces in the cell…..brooding.
Dinner comes. He starts asking me about segregation. Is it quiet, do you get your own cell, what’s the easiest way to get there, etc.?
I begin to answer some of his questions, but in the end I tell him to leave me alone, and I go stand by the cell door to watch the Raptors game.

He’s still pacing….brooding.

Suddenly he comes to the door. I give him a bit of space. He calls through the hatch that he want to get out of this cell. I ask him why does he want to leave……”Because I don’t want to get beat up!” “Who’s gonna beat you up? Yur crazy!”

So, the cleaner goes and alerts the guard (CO Casciani) that my cellie wants out. When she comes to the cell, I’m standing by the door and he’s just about finished gathering up his belongings.

He leaves the cell.

Ten minutes later, CO Casciani and another officer come back to my cell and ask me, why did I push my cell partner?
“Hey, hey…..I didn’t touch him!”
“Well, he says you assaulted hime and I wanna find out what happened.”
“Nothing happened. He’s a bug!”

So, then I quickly explain to her—-I fill out an inmate statement form regarding the situation as I see it.

Nonetheless, CO Casciani clearly disregards my explanation – clearly holding a grudge due to our previous encounter – and places me on lockup status pending investigation. No mention of a misconduct per se.

Monday rolls around and Sgt. Tsenga informs me that I will be moving to seg “pending misconduct.” As you can imagine, I was NOT (am not) a happy camper, especially when I know exactly what game Mike is playing. CO Casciani is just loving it. I can tell by the smirk on her face.

Oh, I forgot to mention that my cell got searched – no, ransacked – that morning at 4 – 4:30am February 22 by three officers and a captain no less. They searched so well that it took an hour to clean up.

So now I get down to segregation……now I am not the most cheerful of persons on the best of days, and this day my mood is sour. But whatever, I figure they’ll check the cameras and see that I’ve done nothing and let me go…..right?

WRONG AGAIN!

Two days later, February 24, Sgt. Boccega comes to my cell and tells me that she has found me guilty of the misconduct for assaulting my cell mate, and she has sentenced me to 10 days closed confinement. “Ya don’t say!” She then handed me the decision sheet, as well as the Misconduct Notice sheet which I was supposed to receive, quote “prior to the misconduct investigation.” Nobody interviewed me, nobody informed me that I was even on a misconduct. I was told by Sgt. Tsenga that I was being put in segregation “pending an investigation.”

Suddenly, without notice, I find myself being found guilty for an assault I did not commit. Mike had no injuries, there was absolutely no evidence to support the claim. Yet, I’m guilty? Where am I…..the TWILIGHT ZONE? No adherence to policy, no due process, nothing. WOW! Okay….so what. Ten days. No problem.

…..written by Brennan Guigue, and dated Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Editor’s note: It would be incorrect to label practices at the Toronto South Detention Centre (“The $1-billion hellhole”) as consistently contrary to Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services policies, or to colour all staff members with the same brush. However, it would be an understatement to say aberrations are prevalent. After all, the TSDC is one institution that has prompted the many lawsuits which the Ontario government is now facing.

This narration concludes with the next posting.

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A day in the life…….

….. at Toronto South Detention Centre

The only place to begin is from what I believe to be the beginning.

The first time I ever came into contact with CO Casciani was sometime during the start of the week of 2016/02/13 – 20.  My schizophrenic cell mate was stressing out and wanted to leave the cell.  He expressed his wish to her and other COs working the unit (A4-B) when he left the cell to receive his methadone medication.

She had accompanied Sgt. Lawrence to my cell as he wanted to question me in regards to my cell mate wanting to vacate the cell.  The tone of St. Lawrence’s questioning was such that I felt as though he believed I was bullying, or intimidating, my cell mate in such a way as to cause him to be in fear of me…..”why is he afraid to come back to the cell?…what did you do to him?….etc., etc.”

I informed Sgt. Lawrence that I could not understand why my ‘cellie’ wanted to leave, other than the fact that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic.  Who knows what’s happening in his head?  I am not a doctor and therefore do not have the training, nor the desire for that matter, even to hazard a guess as to the motivation behind his decision.

I honestly thought we were getting along pretty good in the cell.  He had no money so I shared my canteen with him, I practiced a certain level of patience with him in the sense that as long as he agreed to shower at least once a day, and wasn’t too messy, we would get along just fine.  Also, we had agreed that I would tell him if I felt he was getting a little ‘lost’ in his ‘crazy talk’.  It was a good arrangement.  He slept for nearly three days straight, was relatively quiet, and as ‘cellies’ go, I felt he was a pretty good one.  He didn’t even snore!

As amiable as things were in the cell, there were times when his condition was apparent.  Whenever I noticed this I would engage him in conversation, or some sort of card game (crazy 8s or fishy fishy), or a board game.  Chess or backgammon were not above his intellect but his disorder made it difficult for him to concentrate.  I kept things simple, with simple games.  We settled on checkers.  Also, the institution is usually on lockdown status most weekends and the longer we remained locked in the cell, the more stressed out he got.

I have my own mental health issues – & my own stressors to deal with – and he was becoming more and more erratic (manic) which was beginning to affect my mood.   I’ve got only so much patience.  The day before he actually moved out (Sun. 13th Feb.), I had expressed my concerns to the officer on duty, and he also felt frustration about ‘Special Needs’ inmates being housed with ‘regular’ inmates.  Yes.  I was once classified ‘Special Needs’, but – after meds were regulated properly – later deemed ‘high functioning’ and so cleared from that status.

Anyway, back to what I was saying…….

I did have conversations with my “cellie” about what was bothering him and he kept saying…., “it’s nothing to do with you….I just need to be alone.”  Clearly, he was having issues regarding ‘personal space’.  I tried my best to calm his concerns but in the end (Mon, Feb. 14/16) he elected to leave.

So that was that.  CO Casciani later came to unlock for range activities and informed me that my “cellie” did NOT in fact say that he was ‘in fear of me’, but that he just wanted to be alone.  I asked her why Sgt. Lawrence would come to me from that angle…she had no answer

The next time I was the given the opportunity to see CO Casciani’s personality was later in the week (about 1 or 2 days later).  She was aggressively confronting another inmate who had become upset due to the fact that he did not receive a pair of institutional rec. shorts.  She aggressively crowded his personal space, locking eyes with him, slapping books & papers out of his hand, and physically pushing him toward his cell.  All the while yelling orders to go to his cell.  It was so intense that I honestly thought the inmate was going to punch her in the face or something….I was waiting for it.

I’ve got 21 years of federal time under my belt, probably another 5 -6 years throughout the provincial system.  Where I’ve been guards do not initiate contact with irate inmates; if anything they’re supposed to step back, charge their pepper spray canister, then issue at least 3 direct orders to comply.  If not, then the CO may give a warning that if the inmate does not cease and desist, a chemical agent will be used against him.

As far as I know from experience, (although I could be wrong), these procedures, or the like, are pretty accurate.  As far as I know, guards are not instructed to confront an angry inmate in an aggressive, confrontational manner which may escalate the situation.  Guards surely are not instructed to initiate aggressive contact (by slapping gathered items out of his hands).  He was simply gathering his personal items off the table, in the process of complying with her demands.  I guess he wasn’t moving fast enough.

I realize that this seems long-winded and tedious, but for me it’s therapeutic.  However, I do believe the effort to enlighten you on CO Casciani’s personality is relevant, as you will need to understand her in order to understand my experience in dealing with her.

So now it’s Friday, 19th February morning and I am in my cell cleaning my toilet (I bail out the water and wash the bowl with a rag…by hand).

There I am, sitting on the floor, soapy rag in my hand, soap suds up to my elbows (almost), washing my toilet.  When CO Casciani comes to unlock for range activities, she opens my door and asks, “What are you guys smoking in here?”  I look her dead in the eye, from my position on the floor in front of the toilet, and say – rather sardonically – “Really, do you see anybody smoking?”
“Well, you musta lit something because I smell smoke!”
“I don’t know, do you smell tobacco?  Do you smell marijuana?”
Still sitting on the floor in front of a soapy toilet, with her standing in my cell having an unobstructed view of exactly what I am doing….”look, if you think we’re up to something then come and search, you’re the one in charge”

Suddenly, she stars yelling at me….
“I’M ASKING YOU A QUESTION!!’

“Who the hell are you yelling at?  Don’t yell at me, that’s not how to get things done.  You’re not gonna bully me.  I see what you do with other inmates, don’t try to muscle me!  It ain’t happenin.”  She then stops out of my cell, closes the door and says, “muscle away”, just before she locks it.

So now, I’m locked up for the afternoon.  I try to reason with the other officer as he does his round, but there’s NO WAY one CO is gonna override the decision of another CO for the sake of the inmate, regardless of right or wrong.  Later that evening, CO Casciani showed up at my door with Sgt. Tsenga to inform my cell partner (new one) and I that maintenance needs to do some work on this cell, and we’ll both have to move to different cells.  We pack up and move.  He goes to #10, and I go to #5.  No problem

The vacated cell was #12 – A4-B.

I recognize this as just another example of CO Casciani’s I’m-the-boss attitude flexing her authority over me, but I say nothing.  I do however ask Sgt. Tsenga what’s wrong with the cell?  The door/lock work find, window’s okay, same with the sink/toilet…why are you really moving us?  No response given other than previously…..”maintenance.”

So now the ‘fun’ really begins….they put me in cell #5 with a guy named Michael Saraphin (Sarafin?).

…..written by Brennan Guigue, and dated Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Editor’s note:  We submitted an access to information request on May 6th of 2016….”It was not obvious or apparent that Cell 12 was in need of the maintenance attention.  Please supply a copy of the maintenance report relating to the February 19, 2016 evacuation of Cell 12, Range A4-B.”
A response from the ministry dated June 1 …..”Please be advised that access to the requested records cannot be granted, as the information does not exist.  Experienced staff familiar with the record holdings of the Ministry conducted a records search at the Toronto South Detention Centre. No responsive records were located.”

In other words, civil servants CO Casciani and Sgt. Tsenga lied.  Why?  Stay tuned.

WARS OF MY WORLD – A PROLOGUE

It’s dinner time and he’s gonna be late……playing football with his friends in the park – he lost track of time. Huffing and puffing from rushing, he steps into the crowded elevator….#6 is already pressed.

Almost immediately, he spots a face he recognizes, and is always glad to see. It wasn’t too hard to notice the figure as he stands head and shoulders above everyone else. Then again, everybody is tall to an 8 year old! The tall dark figure and the Boy lock eyes, and the Boy obviously wants to acknowledge the man; however, he discourages the Boy by placing an extended index finger to his puckered lips…….shhhh. The Boy understands….and says nothing.

By this time, the elevator has reached the 4th, 5th floor and has emptied out somewhat; only the tall dark figure, the Boy and a couple of people remain. The 6th, 7th, and 11th floor buttons are still pressed. Noticing this, the Boy is perplexed because he knows that his building is the 2nd of two towers and is still under construction (“finishing”) from the 10th floor up to the top. The man sees this in the Boy’s eyes and when the 6th floor arrives, a discreet hand is placed on his shoulder indicating he is to remain. The Boy does not exit the elevator.

As the door closes behind the last of the passengers, the Boy questions the Familiar Man. “Hey, where are we going? We can’t go past the 10th floor. Mom’ll give me a ‘whoopin’……AND, I gotta be home for dinner!” “It’s okay, I’ll talk to your mom. D’ya wannna see what’s going on upstairs?” Excited at the prospect of exploring a construction site, and the added thrill of venturing into the forbidden….what 8 year old boy could resist?

With late dinner times and the threat of a tanned behind (Mom’s favourite term, “I’ll tan that ass, boy.”) forgotten, the Boy readily agrees to embark on the adventure. Besides, he feels comfortable and safe in the company of the `Familiar Man`, AND he`s agreed to speak on the boy`s behalf with Mom.

When the evevator door opens on the 11th floor the Boy is in wonderment at what he sees. It`s as if he has stepped out into a completely different world than the one which exists on the floors below. It`s a world filled with various tools and saws, hanging plastic sheets, and doorless apartments, unfinished marble floors….and everything covered in a fine white dust. Awesome!

However, not allowing the Boy free reign to explore, the Familiar Man leads the Boy to a small room, a garbage chute, lays the Boy down on the floor, pulls his pants and Superman underwear down to just below his buttocks. The Familiar Man lowers his own pants, and while the Boy lays on his belly on the floor of an apartment building garbage room, he is raped by the Familiar Man!

Afterwards, not understanding what has just happened, the Boy doesn`t really know how to feel. He finds himself suddenly alone on the 11th floor, alone to fix his clothes, alone to put himself back together….., alone to find his way back down to the 6th floor…..,and, alone to explain the white, chalky dust which completely covers his clothing. Explaining the state of his clothes is going to be tough as he is wearing a dark blue K-Way jacket, and a pair of black nylon Parachute pants.

Knowing he can`t tell his mother he`d been up to the 11th floor as she had explicitly forbidden him from going up there, knowing how boys are. Besides, the Familiar Man told me [sic] not to mention our [sic] little adventure to anyone, as he could get into a lot of trouble if anyone knew he`d brought a boy up there.

Worried and scared at what would happen when he got home, the Boy knew there was nothing to do but go home and face his mother. He did his best to clean up, and left the 11th floor garbage room behind.

As expected, “playing with friends“ didn`t fool Mom. She knew exactly where the white dust came from and, as promised proceeded to `tan my ass`.

Later, with an empty belly, and a sore butt, the Boy feels frustrated and angry at being left in the lurch by the Familiar Man who`d promised to advocate on his behalf, and save him from the `whoopin` he knew he was gonna get.

He didn`t know it at the time, but the Boy would come to understand that his feeling would become recognizable as betrayal.

Also, that anger and frustration would become the two most prevalent emotions in his life.

….written by Brennan Guigue, and dated Sunday, December 6, 2015

So much for the ‘law and order’ decade.

April 7, 2017

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould,
Minister of Justice,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: “Prisons became less deadly over past year, data show.”
        Patrick White, Toronto Globe and Mail, Friday, March 17, 2017

Dear Minister:

Patrick White’s article began, “In a single year under Liberal rule, federal prisons became less deadly, less crowded and less black, according to new data obtained by the Globe and Mail that suggested prison life has changed strikingly since the Harper Conservatives fell from power.”

The column went on to analyze the information leading to the conclusion, and referenced input from Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger, a useful observation from Jason Godin, National President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, but only a non-committal response from a Correctional Service spokesperson.

Dr. Zinger said, “It’s quite impressive that, despite the fact there’s been no legislative changes, no regulatory changes, no injection of new money in corrections, the same commissioner, that we’ve seen a significant improvement in a number of performance indicators in health in prisons.” There are some setbacks, but “it’s mostly great news,” said the CI.

Minister, with my contacts in the work I do, one seasoned federal prison inmate was not surprised by the changes. As he put it in so many words, of course the anger over Harper’s perspective would give way to optimism with Trudeau’s refocus.

Those rehabilitative and progressive measures to which Ivan Zinger referred are an important and necessary component to trending changes for the better. Please make them happen.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Dr. Ivan Zinger

After bleak decade under Harper era, officials speculate on why a ‘significant improvement’ under Trudeau.

So ran the tag under the headline for the Patrick White Globe article on March 17.

Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger published sombre numbers last year looking at federal prison life during the decade under Stephen Harper. Health indicators spiked from the 2005-06 fiscal year to 2014-15 showing serious increases in bodily injuries, attempted suicides, double-bunking, suicides, deaths in custody, the gassing of inmates, and increases in black, aboriginal and female inmates. But, when the figures for the year immediately following Justin Trudeau’s election were compiled, all those 10-year trends ‘suddenly and inexplicably nose-dived.’

Not all areas improved. Inmate-on-inmate assaults still increased by 14 per cent, and while use of force against inmates by guards declined by 6 per cent after climbing nearly 50 per cent during the Conservative era, the use of chemical sprays against inmates grew almost 7 percent, and that after increasing 236 per cent during the previous ten years.

Perhaps that helps explain Michael Tutton’s Canadian Press article published in the Toronto Star shortly before on Tuesday, February 28. “Number of prison lawsuits tops 1,200”, where the same Correctional Investigator Zinger says that inmate-on-inmate and guard violence must be addressed.

There were 1203 active cases against CSC as of the end of March in 2016, handled by about 15 lawyers on Correctional Services Canada staff; the federal Department of Justice is used for additional legal advice. CSC is paying out around $10 million in legal fees, and a further $643,000 in out-of-court settlements during the year.

Zinger suggests that when families and inmates are asked to remain silent about the details of settlements, it can reduce the incentive for change in the Service. ”That’s an awful lot of energy devoted to fighting lawsuits and I’m of the view some of that energy could be better channeled by developing strategy to reduce the number is issues raised in the lawsuits,” he said.

In response, Correctional Services said it considers the correctional investigator’s views, but there is no indication it plans to decrease the number of non-disclosure agreements, or address actions to lower the number of legal actions.

So be it. It’s only your money, after all.

The Neptune Four – waiting, waiting, waiting

Confidence and trust….still an illusion.

We introduced a story on March 13 of last year, a story which began in November of 2011 when four teenage boys were stopped by police in the common area of their Neptune Drive housing complex. “Confidence and trust” positioned Toronto police chief Mark Saunders’ call for building and restoring public faith in our police service against one particular police-negative incident. We included our March 10 letter to Chief Saunders which criticized the delay in resolving the questions around the behaviour of his officers on that day in 2011, and the failure to reach an accommodation for punitive damages with these four black teenagers.

The teens, now known as ‘The Neptune Four’, filed a suit against the police. Two of the five officers named in the suit also face a total of four misconduct charges under the Police Act, the two who had originally stopped the young men. The Ontario Human Rights Commission applied to participate in the police tribunal disciplinary hearing to ensure racial profiling was considered as playing a role in that interaction with police on November 21 in 2011.

That hearing was not scheduled to begin until October of last year, five years after the incident!

We ran “The Neptune Four – an update” on October 9. By that time, the tribunal had considered the OHRC intervenor status application. That was denied on Monday, July 11 last year because a hearing officer ruled that the tribunal didn’t have the ability to grant the commission’s involvement. The Toronto Star’s Jim Rankin was as frustrated by that decision as we were, and the paper published a July 15 editorial, calling for changes to the rules, citing there was time to do just that before the hearing was to begin in October.

Nothing happened.

Since then, and shortly before the tribunal was to start, one of the two subject officers submitted a motion to have a police inspector acting as the hearing officer – the tribunal judge – removed, claiming possible bias. The motion alleged that this adjudicator had recently committed a misconduct himself and was “let off the hook” by Toronto police.

The motion said there was a reasonable perception an impartial decision could not be reached, because the lawyer representing this subject officer had previously spoken for another officer against that inspector in his own tribunal hearing, referring to an order he had issued as “unlawful, outrageous, and criminal.”

The motion to have the hearing officer removed was argued at a Toronto police tribunal in December, and with that same particular police inspector adjudicating. And, that inspector’s 78 page decision came down on Friday, March 3 of this year, clearing himself of bias. The report concluded the motion failed to show enough grounds to justify his removal from the case, and that the claims in it were assumptions only.

So now, when will all this move forward? Our only suggestion is to stay tuned.

To quote from the October 9 posting, “We shouldn’t be surprised if this hearing drags on for months, with postponements, delays, and legal challenges. One thing we can conclude with certainty. In the end, the City of Toronto and its taxpayers will be turning over a handsome albeit undisclosed and confidential settlement to the complainants.”

Confidence and trust? There are many Neptune-Four-type cases in a city the size of Toronto, each with its own champions. Some wait too many years for resolution, some never get to that point, some do. No matter. The police are first and foremost at our service, but for as long as there remains no completely impartial and at-arms-length process to referee conflicts we have with our officers, and bring these to a timely and speedy conclusion, trust remains an elusive end.