Millhaven – a Grievance!

Brennan Guigue’s Grievance to Correctional Service of Canada contesting operations at Millhaven Institution is dated January 31, 2019, and published here in two parts:-

Out of the 3 full school days per week – on average – 1½ are cancelled. Out of the 5 full work days per week – on average – 2½ are cancelled. There is a further average of about 2½ days where recreation or yard is cancelled…..or both. All of these things often happen in the same week.

Now, Millhaven has always had inmates locked down, on average, more than most other maximum institutions. However, the added above mentioned restrictions on inmate movement means that now, most inmates in this institution are spending much more time in their cells daily.

Honestly, this institution feels like one big segregation unit. I spent a total of 36 months in the Special Handling Unit at Ste. Anne-des-Plaines in Quebec and there is way more time spent outside of the cells by inmates. There are common rooms where inmates can have meaningful interaction on the units to play cards, or chess, etc.

Millhaven inmates have none of that. Why not? Why does a high security institution (SHU) have greater inmate activity than a lesser one? The SHU has an even greater model of “static security” than Millhaven. Why is this place more restrictive than the SHU?

I’ve been denied access to the chapel for the last 3 consecutive Fridays and thus have been denied the right to participate in Friday prayers (Charter of Rights’ violation). Meanwhile, Christians and Jewish inmates seem not to have any problems gaining access. How do you imagine that’s going over with the Islamic population? No, that’s not a threat….just something to think about.

I am one-half Oneida Native. Aboriginal inmates are being denied spiritual programs despite Elders requesting their attendance. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking….Islamic Native? Let me ask you, does being a Christian Native make him/her any less Native? The point is the violation of a Charter right by CSC representatives.

Access to the library (Charter of Rights)? Our librarian left months ago, there was some retiring maintenance guy who filled in for a couple of weeks, but now there’s nobody since he left.

So, why am I writing this Grievance? Good question.

…..end of part one.

Dear Mr. Klassen…..

…..3 days after “Another rock is turned over!” was posted on January 27, Christine Anderson, Deputy Warden at Millhaven Institution did respond:-

I am writing in response to your letter dated January 16, 2019 to the Visitor Review Board (VRB).

I would like to address the statement the board was dismissive of what Mr. Guigue presented to the board and inform that all information was reviewed at the VRB, including the in person rebuttal presented by Brennan Guigue to conclude a decision on his visiting status.

During processing into any institution there are a number of security tools in place and utilized by CSC staff to ensure a safe and secure environment for staff, inmates and visitors/public. Your visit on November 9, 2018 staff completed their routine processing duties and one of our drug screening security tools indicated that you had come into contact with a prohibited substance. As a result a Threat Risk Assessment was completed by the Correctional Manager. Police are only called if a substance is located on a person or their property.

It is our goal to assist with keeping the institution safe and secure while assisting those who reside in our custody to continue their family supports and community relationships. I can assure you that there is not an agenda to keep you from continuing your relationship with your son.

Respectfully,

……it wasn’t until a month later, on February 28, that an equally respectful response was sent in answer:-

Dear Deputy Warden Anderson:

I do appreciate your taking the time to respond to my January 16th letter to the VRB concerning a November attempt to visit my son, Brennan Guigue. Further, I’ll concede to the sincerity of your argument in countering my criticism and complaint.

All the same, I have been advocating for prisoners, for the reform of institutional oversight, for unfiltered transparency at CSC as part of my activism for thirty years or so. I played around the edges of involved support for these and other causes for perhaps another twenty years before that. It’s a coincidence I have an adopted son in the system, and that has underscored the importance I attach to my work.

At this point in my life, and with my experience and education over the years, I have a high degree of confidence in how I expressed my position in the January letter. There’s been just too much water under that proverbial bridge for a different perspective.

Yours truly,

This “respectful” exchange says another effort to visit is a remote possibility looking for a path forward. This is akin to crossing a “no man’s land” on a World War I battlefield.

The Canadian Bar Association comments……

……on Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.

Currently in third reading, Bill C-83 responds to the B.C. and Ontario legal actions against Ottawa over the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons. But more, it’s intended to bring CSC operating policies in line with progressive recommendations Liberals touted in the 2015 campaign, and then mandated to the relevant ministries after taking office.

But, in “Solitary Confinement” posted on February 3, we noted that as it is now C-83’s purpose “is to mollify all stakeholders by yielding a little to everyone.” In other words, what may appear as meaningful changes are mostly more of the same using different language.

The Canadian Bar Association, “a national association of over 36,000 lawyers, notaries, law students and academics, with a mandate that includes seeking improvement in the law and the administration of justice,” sent a November 19, 2018 five-page letter to the government with its appraisal of the Act.

Whittled down to the barest skeletal basics, those five pages say:-

This Bill should be a big deal. Don’t rush. Talk to prison lawyers and specialist in criminal justice before finalizing the legislation.

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There’s too much discretion for prison staff to deprive prisoners of basic rights, along with a lack of independent oversight.

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“Some entire institutions are now administered similar to a segregation unit.” Cut that out! Bring back the principle of least restrictive measures, legislate protection for prisoners’ rights during lockdowns, and limit the use of lockdowns.

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Different security levels within an institution means more higher security level beds and more restrictive measures on more prisoners. That’s “inconsistent with an evidence-based approach to corrections.” What’s up with that?

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“Structured Intervention Units” in the Bill are a good move, but these sections are “too vague and do no provide the necessary procedural safeguards…” The CBA letter uses more than a page to outline its position on segregating inmates. In a few words, too much discretion in C-83 and little attention to currently recognized standards

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Don’t turn someone inside out looking for contraband. Body scans are preferable, but not body scans and strip searches and dry cells.

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Bill C-83 includes “several positive health care obligations”, and “recognizes the professional and clinical independence of health care professionals”, but the legislative requirements are again vague and don’t include enforceable standards. Health care providers should partner with federal and provincial Ministries of Health, without the influence or interference of prison administrators, and without any CSC staff supervision or oversight. And, add legislation to ensure confidentiality between health care providers and prisoner patients.

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Reduce the number of Indigenous prisoners in custody and at higher security levels using stronger provisions as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “More should be done to support Indigenous communities’ self-determination by ensuring sufficient community and mental health resources to avoid Indigenous people becoming involved in the justice system in the first place.”

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The CBA supports the provision to establish patient advocacy services but these advocates should be independent of the CSC. Also, there’s a need for legal aid services for prisoners across the country. Variations in the levels of legal aid for prisoners show that almost nothing is available in the Prairies and Maritimes for instance, but nowhere in the country is it adequate.

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Bill C-83 makes no mention of “the urgent need to legislate fair pay rates for prisoners.” The scale established in 1981 has not increased and was in fact reduced in 2013 with deductions for additional room and board. Do something!

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Now, putting the Canadian Bar Association aside, and challenging a different perspective, this is the body of a self-explanatory letter sent to Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus in Ottawa on February 20:-

Today, while researching the status of Bill C-83, Corrections and Conditional Release Act amendments, I came upon your comments in the House on October 23 of last year.

You referenced Jason Godin, President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who you quoted as saying there would be a blood bath in the penitentiaries if Bill C-83 were passed.

Citing Jason Godin as an authority on what is best practice in the operation of our federal prison industry is akin to taking Donald Trump’s tweets as gospel.

But then, I doubt there is a Conservative who supports progressive prison reform.

Forget the Canadian Bar Association comments. Wanna bet C-83 will be watered down even further?

Prison industry health care

SCENE ONE – Correctional Service of Canada National Headquarters, Ottawa

“CSC is the largest federal employer of psychologists in Canada.
As a CSC psychologist, you will have a significant impact in changing offender’s behaviours and helping them to adopt more positive lifestyles, assisting in their safe reintegration into the community.

CSC psychologists are primarily focused on the assessment and treatment of offenders with mental disorders and on the assessment of their risk to reoffend. Psychologists also develop and deliver programs that help offenders to better understand their behaviour and to develop new ways of coping.

Join a team of psychologists who are world renowned for their contribution to correctional research and for developing programs and interventions that work.”

…..from ‘Health Services’ employment opportunities on the Correctional Service of Canada web site.

Yes, CSC psychologists are primarily focused on the assessment of their (offenders) risk to reoffend.

As for the rest of the profile, put it in front of the men and women locked away in our prisons. Listen for the laughter coming from inside, breaching the high walls, Plexiglas, fences, bars and barbed wire.

Inmates have higher incidents of mental/emotional challenges than the community at large, and it may account for the criminality of many offenders. Despite the potential for positive outcomes, and the demand for help, psychiatric and psychological intervention is sparse, limited, and exclusive.

Again, an example of the difference between policy and practice.

God forbid that Correctional Service of Canada should do anything to reduce the size of the prison population.