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.

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