Mark the Voice in the Wilderness

……IN THE END, WE ALL PAY.

One last time…..for now:

“The security features inherent in federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out. As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny. Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
The Senate of Canada, Human Rights Committee, Interim Report, February 2019

In conclusion:

“Most people would probably be unlikely to adhere to any advice offered by those who they felt were in direct conflict with their well-being. This sentiment would be even truer if they felt those same entities were actively disregarding their welfare. I say actively because, I swear, sometimes it seems some Correctional Service of Canada’s policies are purposely designed to frustrate and anger inmates, with absolutely no thought of how they will affect us, or the environment they create. Given these circumstances, it’s no wonder there are increased levels of violence, excessive drug use, and low motivation within Canada’s prisons……duh! (Please don’t take offence. My sarcasm is reserved for the ‘heads’ in Ottawa, and not the layman reading this.)

It boggles my mind to try and get my head around the idea that CSC would want to create an environment which produces frustrated, angry men, and then release them back into society! Or, could I be mistaken in my assessment of their motives? Could it be that CSC is actually trying to beat down the inmate, thereby breaking his spirit and hoping that will cause him to no longer be a threat to whatever community into which he is released.

Yeah, I know, but if you knew what I know about CSC from living under its boot for almost three decades, then you wouldn’t think I was on some delusional paranoia trip. The contrast between what the public is led to believe about the CSC mission, and what actually happens behind the walls is as black is to white. You’d be surprised.

This is just one long convoluted example of a situation created by CSC policy makers who have never even seen the inside of a prison! Let me assure you that there are many similar scenarios which can equally be related. You can assume the infinite wisdom of the Correctional Service of Canada, as with most government bureaucracies, knows no bounds. Stupid and nonsensical rules and regulations that do absolutely nothing to contribute to the reform of a ‘criminal’ and cause him/her to become a positive member of society seem to be ‘standard operating practice’ here.

Oh well, what can you do when you live in a show, eh?

Thank you for giving me your time by reading this. Even if you do not agree with me, I do appreciate the patience you took to get through it. I’ll chalk up disagreement to a simple inclination to just be a good citizen who trusts that their government will always be honest and open, and that people in this country aren’t marginalized and pushed to the side. After all, the government is good, and criminals are bad. Right?

Here’s the rub though. Most of us, 85-95% or more, are getting out! You have your own life to think about, with its own struggles and tribulations. I don’t presume to have the right to ask you to put us before your own needs. I’m just trying to offer some food for thought. So, if you are ever privy to a conversation about the conditions in Canada’s prisons, you’ll have a few truths to offer on the matter.”

This series ends here but the offensive does not.

Note the Voice in the Wilderness

……IS REHABILITATION IN CSC’S VOCABULARY? (B)

As usual:

“The security features inherent in federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out. As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny. Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
The Senate of Canada, Human Rights Committee, Interim Report, February 2019

To continue:

“So, wha’dya’ do about the lack of inmate financial resources?

We’re human beings. We adapt. We find a way.

The problem is that to adapt often means finding oneself in conflict with institutional rules governing contraband, which if caught will have a definitely negative impact on an inmate’s Correctional Plan. (An Inmate Correctional Plan is a mechanism by which CSC guides an inmate toward their specific course of rehabilitation, for eventual reintegration into the community.) Some do tattoos, others produce alcohol, some even manufacture and sell weapons. Certainly, there are less extreme schemes such as running a ‘store’, which is a sort of boot-leg canteen bartering system, i.e. canteen items 2 for 3, 3 for 5, 5 for 8, etc. However, a ‘store’ doesn’t make much sense, as it often can put more strain on an inmate’s finances in his effort to meet his obligations, and that leads to new problems for both parties involved. I could list a hundred different things that I’ve seen, and in some cases that I’ve done too, where the guys have participated, including selling their medication, and even some things I won’t mention.

However, all are contrary to conforming to the rules, and viewed as ‘not following your plan.’ These things will inevitably lead to one incurring institutional charges, both minor as well as major. Institutional charges of any kind will negatively affect an inmate’s ability to cascade down to lower security, and parole. Not good.

Yeah….it’s wrong. I know it, and you know it. We all know it. One thing about it though is being hungry and miserable all the time will mess with your head. Being poorly fed and locked in your bathroom-sized cell for 20 plus hour a day at Millhaven is a powerful motivator to ‘get your hustle on.’ Regardless of the consequences, inmates who have spent much of their lives circumventing the rules to get by will revert to what they know best in order to generate that little bit extra income to improve their circumstances.”

Conclusion upcoming…….

We Killed Soleiman Faqiri……

……THE CIVIL SERVANTS INVOLVED WORK FOR US!

Editors note: This timely entry interrupts the “Voice in the Wilderness” series….the final two installments will follow.

“More than a hundred Canadian doctors, lawyers, academics and politicians have signed an open letter calling for accountability in the death of a mentally ill man at the hands of Ontario prison guards in 2016.”

This is how Toronto Star reporter Margaryta Ignatenko began “Open letter calls for justice in jailed man’s death”, her story published by the paper on February 29th. The column acknowledged contributions from the files of Fatima Sayed, another reporter on the Star’s staff who has also written on the death of Soleiman Faqiri.

The letter was sent to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and underscores the frustration with a seemingly stalled second investigation into the death of Soleiman Faqiri. First time round, police declined to file charges, but the case was reopened when an eyewitness came forward, risking life and limb by doing so, prompting pressure upon the government to act.

Not to be left out, we wrote to Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general, whose ministry includes responsibility for provincial jails:-

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General,
Queen’s Park,
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Dear Minister Jones:

The media coverage around the beating death of Soleiman Faqiri at Lindsay’s provincial jail in December of 2016 is missing a reality check.

No matter the issue guards had with Mr. Faqiri, once he was put in a cell, it was left only to close and lock the door. That didn’t happen because those guards intended to beat him. The more he tried to save himself, the more he was beaten. He was beaten in shifts by uniformed civil servants. He was beaten to death by uniformed civil servants.

Assaults on inmates by guards are common and frequent in Canada’s federal and provincial prison industry and only come to public attention when injuries need hospital treatment…..or an inmate dies. Assaults on guards by inmates are common and frequent too but are more in the public domain. Unmentioned is they always result in a beating of the offending inmate. That in addition to victims such as Soleiman Faqiri where guards are simply pissed off.

Take one piece of advice from this long-time advocate/activist. Check the institutional histories, the incident reports, for the guards involved, and for the officer in charge of the segregation unit at Central East in particular. He is after all responsible for directing the actions of his staff.

You and so many other public servants appear anxious to make this manslaughter by fellow provincial employees just go away. That’s a sad indictment of justice in Ontario.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Doug Ford was copied, along with Senator Kim Pate, a signatory to the letter, Yasin Dwyer, Executive Director of the Muslim Chaplaincy of Toronto, Nader Hasan, the Faqiri family lawyer, Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner, Warren Thomas, president of OPSEU, and Toronto Star reporter Margaryta Ignatenko.

……..justice for Soleiman Faqiri is still a long way off.

Hear the Voice in the Wilderness

…..IS REHABILITATION IN CSC’S VOCABULARY? (A)

Yes, there’s a point to repetition:

“The security features inherent in federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out. As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny. Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
The Senate of Canada, Human Rights Committee, Interim Report, February 2019

From his cell at Millhaven Institution Brennan Guigue begins to make his argument in this third installment:

“Referencing inmate pay scales, this lower liquidity can play a direct role in the reform and rehabilitation of an offender because as canteen prices continue to rise, his/her buying power decreases. Combine that with inadequate food quantities, and more importantly, also poor quality, you have morale issues that will in turn effect what’s called ‘institutional motivation.’ It is exactly the same principle as understanding that an army will be a more effective force if it is well fed, or why there is a great importance lent to breakfast programs in schools. Well fed students produce better students.

If CSC and, by greater extent, society wish to talk about producing law-abiding productive members of society, who are reformed from their criminal ways, wouldn’t creating a better motivating environment go a long way in achieving that goal? C’mon now, you don’t really believe that things will just fix themselves, do you? (Gee, aren’t we the optimist.)

CSC’s food policies prescribe a caloric intake of around 2600 calories per day for the average male inmate. However, if you look closely at the information, the ‘average male inmate’ described is somewhere between the ages of 25 – 35 years, maybe 150 – 175 lbs. He’s also described as ‘sedentary’, he’s not doing anything! Why do people lift weights and exercise, what comes to mind when your doctor or psychologist tells you to ‘get out and do more, join a gym…it’ll be good for you?’

The reality is that the average inmate, based on what I see around me, is between the ages of around 20 – 30 years of age, and most of them want to get out of their cells, work out, maybe play some b-ball, or floor hockey once of twice a week. Then there are guys like me who are getting up in age but have been active all of their lives and wish to stay in shape. Or even just to alleviate some stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts/ideation. Name the symptom and I bet being active will help in some way.

More than a third of the guys in here aren’t average as described by the Canada Food Guide, which is what CSC dieticians use as a measure. Many are 200 lbs. or more, and not sedentary. I myself am 213 lbs., having lost a good 12 lbs. since arriving at Millhaven Institution, and although I am only 5’9” tall, I am definitely not a fat guy. My body could stand to lose another 5 – 6 lbs. or so, but I think I’m doing pretty good for a 49 year-old. Besides, being locked in a 13’7” cell for 20 hours a day makes maintaining any consistent, healthy weight difficult.

However, living off just the prison diet does not allow me to work out, or exercise nearly as much as I’d like to. I am hungry ALL the time! I play floor hockey once a week as a must as it is my favorite sport to play, but I no longer get into the weight pit, which is something I’ve done since the age of 15. I try to walk the yard at least 3 times a week, but I’d much rather run around in the gym more often, perhaps play two games of hockey and even a game of b-ball a week. I just can’t do it.

As anyone who is getting older is aware, lack of energy can be very frustrating and thus have a negative effect on one’s morale.

However, keeping inmate energy levels low makes for an effective control mechanism. Now there’s an interesting thought, eh?”

Yes, there’s more……..

Yukon gets a Gold Star!

“Yukon to place strict limits on solitary” headlined Patrick White’s Globe and Mail prominent front-page story on October 28.

Editor’s note: This was prepared for publication late last year prior to the two-month hiatus referenced at the head of the last posting. It remains relevant and current all the same.

Those limits are the thrust of Yukon’s Bill 6, an Act to Amend the Corrections Act 2009, which was in committee after passing first and second reading in the territory’s legislature when the Globe article was published. Since then it passed third reading and came into force on November 27.

Under the Act, an inmate cannot be held in segregation who is pregnant or has recently given birth, who is suicidal or chronically self-harming, has a mental disorder or intellectual disability, requires medical observation, or has a mobility impairment. All exemptions have prescribed legislated conditions.

Bill 6 declares an inmate cannot be held in segregation for more than 15 days to an annual 60-day limit. And, an inmate who is released from segregation after 15 days cannot be placed in segregation again until a period of five days has expired since the end of the last 15-day segregation period. Those limits can be exceeded only with the consent of an independent arbitrator, who could not be a government employee.

The legislation is the first in Canada to comply with the United Nations General Assembly’s 2015 adoption of what are now called the Mandela Rules, which asks all jurisdictions to limit solitary confinement to 15 days. As such, this bill doesn’t address questions around segregation placements for less than 15 days, except that 60-day annual maximums apply.

Yukon Director of Corrections Andrea Monteiro wanted to be pro-active in dealing with the issue and make the territory a leader in segregation reform. Yukon has only one territorial prison, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre with a problematic recent history with solitary confinement, but the government is advantaged in its reform efforts over other jurisdictions like Ontario which has 25 provincial jails.

Canada’s prison industry is watching the impact of this legislation. The Courts have been very clear with its position on segregation practices and any federal or provincial government that ignores recent decisions will face and is contending with further litigation. “The hard 15-day cap has been met with stiff resistance from current and former prison staff, who say it jeopardizes the safety of employees and inmates,” said Patrick White in the Globe and Mail.

Former federal warden Glen Brown, now a criminology instructor at Simon Fraser University, described Yukon Bill 6 as “terse and perfunctory” in attempting to comply with the Mandela Rules, claiming the complexity and seriousness of circumstances can’t be effectively managed under its provisions.

On the other hand, Howard Sapers, a former federal correctional investigator who advised Yukon on this bill, says that its “far-reaching approach” is to be admired. “My experience in the federal sphere, sadly, is that the government was quite content to be re-active, to not get ahead of these things. It’s nice to see a jurisdiction that wants to be pro-active,” he said.