“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.

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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.

Ontario? What rules?

………and 25 Grosvenor Street pretends not to know.

September 7, 2018

Minister Michael Tibollo,
Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
25 Grosvenor Street, Toronto

Re: It ain’t easy!

Dear Minister Tibollo:

I characterize your unflattering assessment of the previous government’s management of MCCS as partisan, and frankly dishonest. I concede a lack of experience in this portfolio leaves you unaware of the walls Marie-France Lalonde, David Orazietti, and Yasir Naqvi encountered. Surely you can’t believe these Liberal ministers didn’t attempt to push an elephantine bureaucracy towards a more enlightened 21st century purposeful perspective?

My specialty focuses more on provincial jails than policing, and the 2016 appointment of Howard Sapers as the Independent Advisor on Corrections’ Reform to the Ontario Government was welcome and progressive. That Bill 195 which adopted several of his recommendations never received Royal Assent is a setback, and I urge you to review Mr. Sapers’ work as you go forward with your agenda.

Know though that any overt staff sycophantic enthusiasm for whatever you propose will be coupled with a shrouded obstructionist determination to derail change. CBC’s August 23 posting, “Convicted drug dealer faced ‘oppressive’ conditions inside Toronto jail, judge rules” is only one instance of how little concrete has been accomplished to bring Toronto South Detention Centre’s operations up to standard. And, I’ve exampled but one facet in one institution.

MCCS needs an enema. It won’t be easy.

cc Sam Erry, Deputy Minister/Corrections

Michael Tibollo is a rookie Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP who came under strong criticism for wearing a bullet-proof vest on a police ride-along in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, a predominantly black community with a history of gang violence.

The CBC posting cites frequent lockdowns and poor treatment in freeing a small-time drug dealer from the Toronto South Detention Centre. Justice Katrina Mulligan noted “unduly harsh custodial conditions” at TSDC in her ruling, described them as “qualitatively oppressive and physically detrimental”, aggravated by “questionable” medical treatment. Judges continue to message Ontario’s ministry in many decisions for what they consider a bad situation.

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Oath of Allegiance

“I, …………………… , do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors according to the law.
So help me God. (Omit this phrase in an affirmation)”

Oath of Office and Secrecy

“I, ………………….. , do swear (or solemnly affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as a civil servant and will observe and comply with the laws of Canada and Ontario, and, except as I may be legally authorized or required, I will not disclose or give to any person any information or document that comes to my knowledge or possession by reason of my being a civil servant.
So help me God. (Omit this phrase in an affirmation)”

These are the oaths sworn by Ontario’s civil servants, including guards and staff at the province’s jails.
So, what do they mean to our jail guards? Not much.

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We have anecdotal evidence in two specific areas, primarily at Toronto South Detention Centre, although conditions should be considered uniform throughout the provinces prison industry.

Nothing has changed in Ontario in spite of the previous government’s commitment to improve MCCS and plans by the new government to do the same. Institutional staff is not paying attention to policy, procedure, or the law in some cases, if it doesn’t meet an anti-inmate agenda, believing guards and middle-management can act with impunity.

Reducing the use of solitary confinement as an objective prompted guards to create segregation cells on population ranges. They simply select the most isolated cell on a range, use it for segregation, allow the subject inmate out for two hours per day as prescribed, but only when other inmates on that range are locked away.

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What’s the problem? Manifold and many, no question, and they won’t be resolved even with a total rethinking of the penal system. A requisite first step though is accountability, now nowhere to be seen. And good luck to anyone at MCCS to get that idea past the guards’ union!

Rules & the law are ‘simply a suggestion.’

…….political malpractice at work

Back in the 1970s, this writer visited a close friend who was on a multi-year corporate assignment in Montreal. He headquartered in a downtown high-rise and made the most of exploring the city in his spare time.

On this visit and on a pleasant Sunday, we went for a mid-morning drive to see Old Montreal. The streets were quiet, talk was easy and casual, but a distraction all the same. As we coasted down a hill on a side street, my friend realized we were at an intersection with a red stop light against us.

His reflexes kicked in, he applied the brakes, there was a short skid, and we drifted slowly through the intersection when he lifted his foot off the pedal. Thankfully there was no other traffic in any direction….except for a police cruiser parked at the curb across the street facing us. We continued slowly down the hill as he kept checking the rear-view mirror. The police car didn’t move.

A few moments later, he said quietly, “You must remember that in Montreal, red lights are simply a suggestion.”

Correctional Service of Canada operations reminds me of that morning drive, as does Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and no doubt, similarities can be made with the way other provincial prison industries are run. Suggestions. That’s what policy, procedure and even the law so often seems to be.

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Then too, there’s a television moment from just over twenty years ago that can remind us of how our jails and prisons are managed.

The original “Murphy Brown”, the comic series now revived for today’s audience, ran from 1988 to 1998. For 24 episodes from 1994 to 1997, Garry Marshall appeared in the character role of Stan Lansing, the lovable, loud, cantankerous, mico-managing network president.

In a short scene from one show, ‘Stan’ is pacing around his desk, telephone in hand, and agitated in the midst of an animated conversation with the producer of one of the programs his network is running. They’re arguing back and forth about the quality of the product. Frustrated, and intent on bringing the call to a close, ‘Stan’ slams down the receiver with a final judgment on the subject, “It would be better if it didn’t stink!”

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There are no secrets here. Activists, reformers, progressives, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator in the case of Canada’s federal prison industry, stream observations, recommendations, criticisms, pleas, and initiate court actions to move the clock towards an environment of accountability and positive outcomes.

Results are negligible at best even with a sustained determination to effect change, but worse, the intransigence is defended and supported by the very elected bodies who are charged by the people to work for the betterment of society.

Next: Another look at Ontario’s jails before we tackle what the feds are doing.