Correctional Officer DARIN GOUGH…… Guards……#3

“ONTARIO MAN SUING PRISON GUARD AFTER ALLEGED ASSAULT CAUGHT ON CAMERA IN PRISON PARKING LOT.”
So read the lead of Nicole Brockbank’s CBC News posting on October 16, 2019.

Paul Saliba has an accessible parking permit due to injuries from a serious car accident.  He had permission from Correctional Service of Canada to use a disabled spot in the staff parking lot when he visited his son at the Bath Institution just west of Kingston.  On February 28 in 2017, about four months after CSC granted him use of the parking space, Correctional Officer Darin Gough cancelled his visit over an argument about parking in the staff lot.

Mr. Saliba is in his late sixties and was stopped by C.O. Gough before he could enter the prison.  A disagreement over the use of the parking spot escalated when the guard cancelled his visit and Mr. Saliba would not identify himself out of fear for retribution against his son.  Gough escorted him back to his car where he took pictures of his licence plate while Saliba reached into his car for his cellphone, intending to take a picture of the guard.  “I was going to try and take pictures of him, but I’m not savvy with that,” Saliba told CBC News.  “The next thing I know he slammed me up against the vehicle next to my vehicle.”

He believes he would have been charged for assaulting the guard had it not been for a security camera that shows C.O. Gough grabbing him by the coat and pushing him against a vehicle.  Gough insists he never touched Saliba, even after looking at the video, and claims he was “the true victim” of the altercation.  CSC investigators disagreed.  “There is no doubt (Gough) did touch Mr. Saliba, although he is adamant he did not.”

As a brief interjection, federal prison video has no audio, and it is Correctional Service of Canada’s standard operating practice to discount video evidence that does not support a CSC narrative.  What is more, and despite the finding of the investigators, neither CSC nor C.O. Gough will accept culpability for its treatment of Mr.Saliba

To move on, he reported the incident to the Ontario Provincial Police and the prison warden.  The police declined to lay assault charges against Darin Gough, and Saliba then laid a private charge against the guard following the release of the prison investigation.  In September of this year, Crown Julie Scott stayed the charge by arguing that the effort to get a conviction was not warranted, given the possible penalty.

Paul Saliba is now focusing on his civil lawsuit against Darin Gough and the Attorney General of Canada.  His $500,000 action claims C.O. Gough “concocted false criminal accusations” against him “to cover up Office Gough’s own wrongdoing” and that the Correctional Service of Canada owed him a duty of care as a visitor at their institution.  A Justice of the Peace earlier told him to exercise patience in the process, as “they protect their own.”  The first Discovery Hearing was not until December 8 and 10 of this year, with a second scheduled for late January.

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“GUARD’S ‘SELFIE’ ON VISITOR’S PHONE PROMPTS INMATE TO LAUNCH CASE.”
Brendan Kennedy’s report in the Toronto Star, August 21, 2018

Paul Saliba almost walked away from his lawsuit against Darin Gough more than a year ago, until he came across media coverage of another incident involving Gough and a visitor to Bath Institution, this time in February of 2016.

Tammy Truesdell was visiting her husband Jason Lauzon on February 17, 2016.  She left her phone in the car; later, Darin Gough and a drug detector dog checked the vehicle in a random search.  When Ms. Truesdell checked her phone after the visit, she found an email from her security feature app.  The email was titled “someone tried to unlock your hangouts,” and included a close-up photo of Darin Gough, his face a portrait of concentration, his eyes focused and the tip of his tongue sticking out.  The phone’s security takes an “Intruder Selfie” when someone incorrectly enters its four-digit passcode twice, then emails it to the phone’s owner.

She was shocked and angry.  Visitors may be subject to a search of their person and sometimes their vehicles, but CSC guards do not have the right to search the contents of phones.  Ms. Truesdell recognized Gough as the guard who had searched her earlier in the day and spoke to her husband that evening.  He filed a complaint using the prison’s internal grievance system.

The complaint went nowhere, not surprising given that the grievance process is a sop.  Prison management discounted the photo it was given.  Gough denied trying to unlock the phone, saying he must have inadvertently triggered the security function when he moved the phone into the glove compartment so it would not be damaged by the drug dog.

Lauzon took the government to court in the face of “unequivocal photographic evidence.”  He was not suing prison officials or looking for damages, but he asked the Federal Court to review the Correctional Service of Canada’s handling of his grievance.  All he wanted was an acknowledgement of what occurred and an apology.  Lauzon’s lawyer, Paul Quick of the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic, said the case may be minor but was important, “because it clearly illustrates the dynamic that allows prison staff to commit abuses and act outside the law without fear of being held accountable.”

When Lauzon raised the matter with a supervisor, assistant warden Tim Hamilton told him if he ever wanted to be transferred to a minimum-security facility, he should “keep (his) head down, stay off the radar and don’t flood us with paperwork,” which Lauzon understood as thinly veiled threats.  According to Paul Quick, “the word of a guard will not only be believed over that of a prisoner but will be accepted over all other evidence….,” adding that “time and again” CSC is “fundamentally incapable of acknowledging wrongdoing.”  He went on. “It sends prisoners a message that it is not the law that matters, but simply power and the ability to get away with it.”

According to Brendan Kennedy’s report, “The inmate grievance was denied at each stage of the process until a judge dismissed the couple’s application for judicial review because the potential wrongdoing happened to Ms. Truesdell, a visitor, not to an inmate.”  But Justice Glennys McVeigh noted in her decision that “the idea that two incorrect four-digit codes could be imputed simply by moving a phone into the glovebox is an unlikely explanation for what occurred.”

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Paul Saliba is forging ahead with his action: “The judge in Napanee was on my side and made us come back to court 8 times before Crown Julie Scott had the charges stayed.  He warned the Crown that I was passionate about this and I would not stop there if he had to stay the charges.  He was so correct!  I will not stop until we see changes.  We cannot continue like this.”

We know Tammy Truesdall and Jason Lauzon were not satisfied with the outcome of their action against the prison agency.  We do not know what their experience with the system has been since they stood up to it.  No doubt their names are red flagged.  No doubt they are subject to biased scrutiny.  Hopefully, they are alert and cautious, but not cowered.

Expect Paul Saliba to be challenged, frustrated, and oppressed as he pushes against a government service not regulated by the mechanisms of popular control.  There’s more to come.

….and, there’s still more guards to come, too.

Guards……#2

An inmate assaulted a guard at the Ontario provincial Maplehurst Correctional Complex west of Toronto.  This happens; it’s not uncommon.  Regardless of sound arguments that some guards in provincial and federal institutions invite and coerce physical confrontations with offenders, it is not a good idea to attack staff and, understandably, criminal charges result.  And what is more, inmates who assault a guard are in turn ‘punished’ by other guards.  This should not happen either.  It’s against policy for one, and it’s illegal for another.

Let’s call this inmate Fred.  Fred’s encounter goes back several years but is illustrative of others before and since.  Fred was so savagely beaten by a group of guards and his injuries so severe that management transferred him to the old Toronto West Detention Centre, a jail the province closed at the end of 2014.  Once there, he was hidden away.  No visitors, no family were allowed to see Fred while he received medical attention and healed.

Fred’s lawyer was also barred, a major no-no.  Inmates and their lawyers meet by right.  A lawyer associated with us went into a rant when hearing of this incident, claiming that under the same circumstances he would quickly appear before a judge.  Well, on second thought, he might not do that.  Why?  Going that far could mean any future appointment to see a client in a provincial institution might just as likely as not be delayed and even abandoned.  It’s not unusual that social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists …and lawyers…with arrangements to meet with inmates, many with a court order, are sometimes left hanging in a barren small room waiting for clients.

Did Fred’s story get media coverage?  No. Were guards charged?  No.  This was one of many extreme interactions between guards and inmates, and while charges do make the news occasionally, most incidents get no attention from the media, from the ombudsman, from law enforcement or from the Courts.

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Toronto South Detention Centre opened in January of 2014.  Its brief and controversial history is marked by censure from lawyers, civil liberty groups, citizen advocates, and the media.  Bad press has slowed recently, likely due to a more potent management on the one hand, and control of what information escapes the facility on the other

In 2017, an inmate is charged with assaulting two guards there, an inmate we’ll call George.  There’s video (no audio) of the incident from a camera mounted several metres away.  George is in custody on remand awaiting the disposition of charges that will eventually earn him prison time.  His lawyer might normally advise a client in this situation to plead guilty to the assaults and put them behind him.  This wouldn’t affect the outcome on his criminal charges or necessarily impact sentencing negatively, and it could even work in his favour.

But this lawyer saw something more than an assault in that video.  This lawyer saw a Charter of Rights Section 8 violation, a section that states that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”  This incident began when a guard interfered with George’s rightful access to property and then escalated a confrontation by pepper spraying him in the face….twice…when George objected to the obstruction.  George entered a not guilty plea.  An action on the Charter violation couldn’t begin unless the assault charges were dismissed.

In the end, the trial, scheduled for two days, was cut short midway on the second day when the judge became ill before he could rule.  He withdrew, and the Crown stayed the charges rather than start over.  During the hearing, the video evidence could have supported either side of the question, except for witness testimony and the Crown’s argument that George was guilty mainly because he had a prior criminal record, prompting doubt of George’s guilt.

The guard who initiated the incident was ex-military, not uncommon in the ranks of ‘correctional officers.’  Before the trial began he re-enlisted and was sent overseas, conveniently unavailable to the Court.  The second guard involved and a third guard close-by who witnessed the assault testified in practised unison, except for one relevant detail, and were also under observation in Court by a representative from their union.

This came off as a wash….nobody won.  So, why report it here?  Well, it illustrates daily frustrations encountered by inmates in jails and prisons that foster disrespect for their keepers and for the law.  Offenders in custody will say, “they don’t care” and “things will never change,” while advocates will argue that if guards are not a part of the correctional process, then they are a part of the problem with the correctional process.

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One last example of an irritant that compromises peace in custody comes from the Toronto East Detention Centre.  This is a dirty jail.  Toronto East is a grimy, mucky, unwashed provincial jail.  The facility probably thinks otherwise, but even the large cube-like visitor waiting room and the two adjacent areas where inmates are brought to meet family/friends beg for soap, water, and….bleach.  The condition of the two visitor washrooms ranges week to week from terrible to unusable.

Jack was transferred to Toronto East awaiting trial and noted the conditions of the jail in mail and conversations.  Inmates who have visits first submit to a security check that includes leaning face-first against a wall for a pat-down, a reasonable and expected routine.  Jack had previously picked up skin infections elsewhere in the system and then had to contend with inconsistent health care.  When he was called for a visit at the East and butted his fists against that wall for a pat-down rather than the palms of his hand, guards refused to clear him.

His visitor waited two hours, inquired about the delay, was told the visit was cancelled, and left the institution.  All the while Jack was making his argument with management on what in reality was a non-issue, finally was given the okay for his visit….except by that time his visitor had left the premises.  This was nothing more than a Little Napoleon guard looking for an excuse to stir up resentment, perhaps provoke an inmate, and then complain about the difficulties and risks in his job that justify the demands his union will make in the next round of contract negotiations.

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These three provincial jails are no different than others in Ontario.  The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Central East in Lindsay, and Thunder Bay predominate significantly among them for attracting unwanted attention.  And the jails in Ontario figure no differently in the prison industry’s landscape than provincial jails in the rest of the country.

….#3 next time.