“I HATE INMATES!…….

…..WHO DO I OWE A BEATING TO TODAY?”

This rant by a guard walking onto a range a few years ago at the defunct Toronto West Detention Centre is one variation of a mantra endemic in Canada’s prison industry. Only inmates, the source of this guard’s livelihood, and other staff members were within earshot, and this guard was intentionally threatening and intimidating, daring a challenge, and looking for any excuse to assault an inmate.

“Hate” and “beating” were words expected to incite contempt by inmates for a system that is mandated to positively redirect future decisions but instead is primarily correctional in name only. In the end, recidivism is a key component in maintaining a stable work environment for everyone employed in the business. Most job actions directed at sustainability in provincial and federal institutions are less obvious than that guard in Toronto West years ago, they’re frequently passive, and may even appear benign, but are equally effective, nonetheless.

Provincial jails house men and women convicted of an offence and sentenced for relatively short periods, but often a majority of inmates are held on remand, awaiting the disposition of charges. For these, the vegetative wait for technically innocent people can stretch into years, two, three or even four. An inadequate bail program, insufficient public resources, underfunded legal aid support, backlogged court dockets, and a lack of political will keeps many in custody who otherwise could benefit from opportunities in the community.

There is little work, few programs, a phone system allowing only collect calls, and no direct contact with family/community support. Worse, there’s a move away from visits where barriers separate inmates and people from the outside to ‘video visits’, where both parties see only the head and shoulders of one another on a monitor and communicate over a phone. To boot, there’s no dedicated resource for inmates to air concerns, and what little is available is of no consequence to provincial jail staff or management. How bad can it get?

“Toronto South…..again!”, posted April 21st examples how a lack of accountability enables contempt of both prisoners and their keepers for ministry policies, and even the law. Jails are laboratories developing the building blocks of an industry’s foundation. We followed up our March 15th letter to the Ontario minister with a May 6th request for comment. Bets?

More looks under the rock coming……

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CANADA’S PRISON INDUSTRY……

……is not a CORRECTIONAL SERVICE!

For prison guards, job security means having prisoners to guard. No prisoners, no guards. Reduce the number of prisoners, reduce the number of guards. Job security is a concern everywhere, and so it is with employees in federal and provincial institutions and the agencies that oversee them.

The federal Corrections and Conditional Release Act stipulates in Section 3.1 that, “The protection of society is the paramount consideration for the Service in the corrections process.” With the mandate and mission federal/provincial/territorial agencies have to return offenders safely to the community as contributing law-abiding citizens, Correctional Service of Canada and its provincial and territorial counterparts’ first responsibility is to make prisons redundant…..and every employee’s primary directive is to put themselves out of a job.

So why aren’t prison populations dropping in Canada? We’ve written earlier that the Dutch had closed prisons. The Washington Post reported in the summer of 2016 that the Netherlands shut 19 prisons in 2013 alone, with five more likely to close. The paper also referenced Sweden’s falling prison population, some prisons were shuttered, and an “expert who spoke to the Guardian in 2013 suggested that the humane and comfortable nature of Swedish prisons had led to a better chance of rehabilitation for prisoners.”

Again, why are there not fewer prisoners here? Federal and provincial institutions must accept who the courts send them. As a start, it is the courts and the judiciary who can best inform and educate the provincial and federal attorneys general to the benefits of alternatives to incarceration. In the meantime, our politicians seem content to allow interests with regressive agendas to lead them by the nose. No matter, the agencies that operate our prisons have both an obligation to reduce inmate numbers and the resources and authority to make that happen.

What our institutions do with men and women in their custody defines the difference between a prison industry and a correctional service. Progressive programming prioritizing the best of medical and social sciences supports positive outcomes. But, when a ‘prison population maintenance initiative’ becomes the go-to plan to satisfy employee interests for the future of their jobs, correctional services are sacrificed to corporate sustainability and stability.

A closer peek under this rock coming up next………

“Any system that allows us to turn a blind eye to hopelessness and despair, that’s not a justice system, it is an injustice system.” Barack Obama

Carding……STILL?

What do we have to do to end this?

Toronto’s Globe and Mail published “Boxer takes another shot at banning street checks” in its April 13 edition. Kirk Johnson, a 1990s Olympic boxer, was pulled over in 1998 by a white Halifax police officer and his Ford Mustang was impounded as a result.

Why? He was black, and Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Commission later agreed. Mr. Johnson had filed a human rights complaint, and after five years, the decision exposed racial bias in the Halifax-area police and mandated change.

“The rights commission’s order that police collect street check data and analyze it for racial bias fell by the wayside for more than a dozen years. Although police collected the data, no analysis was done until media inquired about it in 2016,” the Globe reported.

An independent academic report released last month looked at police data for a 12-year span from 2006 to 2017 showing the equivalent of two street checks for every black person living in the Halifax area compared to only one street check for every three white people. The report found that blacks in Halifax are still stopped five to six times more than whites.

Kirk Johnson reluctantly jumped back into the controversy, feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. “To realize you do this work to help the situation and the situation isn’t getting better…..the bottom line is racism is a bad disease. It’s destroying a lot or people, white and black. In order for us to live in harmony, that type of stuff has got to go.”

We reminded the Halifax police chief in an April 16 note that street checks……’carding’……is code for police state.

A few days after the press ran the results of the analysis of police data, Nova Scotia’s justice minister ordered a ‘moratorium’ on street checks of pedestrians.

Over and over and over we are challenged and dared. People….each of us, all of us….must stand up, speak up, and act up…. or the bullies will have their way.

“Moving forward. Always moving forward.”

…….from “Taking the field”, December 3, 2018

Brennan Guigue’s lawsuit against the government was scheduled for March 12 to set a date to begin hearing evidence. But, “moving forward” in court includes accommodating unforeseen delays, setbacks from either side. The latest postponement is on Guigue and his lawyers.

The forensic toxicology report from our U.S. pepper spray expert is dated January 25 but it wasn’t until the end of the first week of March that the Montreal lawyer representing Brennan Guigue’s attorneys, Kalman Samuels, was able to pass it on to him for review.

Given the expected questions Brennan and his lawyers would have for the expert about the case review, Montreal also filed an Application with the court to extend the delay for setting down for trial and judgement, requesting an additional 3 months to ready the file.

Brennan had two questions for the consultant in New York, his lawyers had two as well, and these were emailed to the States on March 22. A discussion between lawyer and expert followed within five days, the questions were answered, and the report was filed in the court record by the end of the month.

This report will not be reproduced here, in whole or in part. Let’s only note that the expense was worthwhile and the results are useful.

The court granted the requested extension. The new inscription date is June 12.

Worth repeating: –
Brennan Guigue is far from the first inmate in our federal prisons to experience a pepper spray attack. He survived. Others haven’t. Government lawyers and taxpayer money ensures silence. And in Brennan’s case, all the guards involved are still employed by CSC….except the videographer who voluntarily left the Service.

Toronto South…..again!

About 200 Toronto South Detention Centre guards refused non-essential work at the jail on Monday, March 4, after an alleged assault by inmates injured eight staff members on the previous weekend.

OPSEU represents the jail employees and argues a staff shortage is a major cause of increased violence at the facility. The walkout lasted only one day but the issue the union raised has been ongoing since TSDC opened.

At the same time, a senior Toronto judge says it is “absolutely unacceptable” and “unfair” that inmates are frequently in full lockdown at the South, and he and other judges often award enhanced credits for time-served in pre-trial custody. One defence lawyer called the recurring lockdowns “horrific, it’s a human rights violation.” Daniel Brown, a Toronto lawyer and vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, references “deplorable conditions” at this jail and others around the province.

There’s more to this long-running standoff than simply a lack of guards, and we said so in a letter to Ontario’s current Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services:-

March 15, 2019

The Honourable Sylvia Jones,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,

Toronto South Detention Centre has been a challenge since the institution opened, and the recent “labour dispute” indicates operational issues persist.

Of course, no staff member should be targeted for assault. OPSEU members blame understaffing as the main culprit.

The “why” question also needs to be asked of criminal lawyers, social workers, and inmates most importantly. For example, no inmate who is not deranged awakes of a morning and decides to assault a guard that day. Are you aware of the consequences? Ask an inmate, or preferably, a former inmate. Apparently too, guards have a weaker constitution and are given respite after violent incidents.

Disrespect for inmates and their property, lock-downs, humiliation, intimidation, guard assaults on inmates, human rights’ abuses, Charter violations, and widespread indifference to MCCS policies factor into the stress and unrest so prevalent at TSDC.

Exacerbating this mess, management from the institutional level up through the ranks even to your office appear unconcerned, even in the face of adverse publicity.

Charles H. Klassen

Copied on this was Sam Erry, Ms Jones’ deputy minister, Warren Thomas, head of OSEU, Chris Jackel, head of OPSEU’s correctional division, and MPP Kevin Yarde, the NDP justice critic.

MCCS headquarters at 25 Grosvenor Street seems oblivious, and conditions can only get worse under the current Conservative government in Ontario.

Prison Industry health care

SCENE TWO – Correctional Service of Canada National Headquarters, Ottawa
……continued from March 3.

“The legislative mandate for CSC to provide health services to federal offenders comes from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA). The CCRA indicates that CSC is responsible for providing ‘every inmate with essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care that will contribute to the inmate’s rehabilitation and successful reintegration in the community’.

CSC Health Services strives to improve offender health to contribute to the safety of Canadians. We provide offenders with efficient, effective health services that encourage individual responsibility, promote healthy reintegration, and contribute to safe communities.

The delivery of care is provided by health care professionals who are registered or licensed in Canada including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, dentists, and other relevant specialists.”

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

Public reaction to prison health care policy draws criticism from people in the community who feel they can’t get what care they need for themselves.

Chalk that up to a misreading of the health care protocol. “Essential” and “reasonable” are subjective. What’s more, people are unaware that policy and practice in our prison industry are often out of sync.

Experience, observation and research say, yes, there are dedicated CSC health care employees and contracted professionals who make policy their practice. Too often, that’s not the reality.

The final entry, scene three, will examine the thorny subject of dental care as a major issue.

So, how does an inmate access health care? Barring a violent/traumatic incident, a request form makes its way to medical staff. The wait for a response can be days, weeks, or………? Waiting is the only option.

Citing but two examples that make the wait for help in a prison stressful, note the inmate in a provincial institution from an earlier posting who was told by a nurse that health care was a privilege and not a right. This was an Ontario government employee, but the sentiment is common throughout our penal systems. Then there’s a federal inmate who used a long-awaited trip to his institution’s health care unit to ask a nurse how they handled requests marked “urgent.” They don’t pay attention to “urgent”, he was told.

Dear public. Envy prison health care? Be careful what you wish for.

Millhaven – a Grievance…..part II

….part one ended with “So, why am I writing this Grievance? Good question.”

Apparently, the cause of all these difficulties is due to a lack of staff on shift at any one time.

So, it takes about 50 – 55 staff to run this institution properly. It’s currently operating on about 40 at any given time. That means that when there is a problem in one area staff are pulled from other areas. The same goes when staff is needed to facilitate escorts. These things effectively shut down the whole institution for hours, or even days at a time. How can this institution provide all of the rightful opportunities afforded to inmates as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights while only operating at a staff capacity of around 72%? It cannot.

Forgetting about the mental health issues that can arise, what about violent incidents, drug use, institutional motivation? Think of the legal implications. God forbid that Toronto class-action law firm Koskie Minsky gets hold of this! See…., inmates won’t need to be wealthy to get before the courts to be heard….I’m just sayin’…. We don’t even have access to hobby/craft programs.

And things are only going to get worse. Due to the changes with Directives around segregation, those inmates who were being housed in the segregation unit have been moved to a regular recently renovated unit, and will be permitted 4 hours of “range time” per day. This means that the ‘new’ unit will need to be manned with staff, most likely from other areas of the institution, creating even more strain on the situation.

As for the amount of “range time” allotted to the regular population, forget about the standard operating procedures. Inmate movement to yard, recreation, work, or school is always late. Evening rec./yard movement NEVER happens before 5:30pm (usually it’s 5:40pm – 5:45pm), until 8pm (say 2 hours). If an inmate declines rec./yard, his “range time” is from 7pm until around 7:45-50pm (45 minutes), then it’s lock-up for movement. The next movement (for evening “range time”) happens anywhere between 8:50pm – 9:10pm…, let’s say 9pm for arguments sake. 9pm – 10:30pm is 90 minutes divided by 2 (one half of range at a time is out of cells) equals 45 minutes each. So, if an inmate goes to rec./yard, he gets around 2½ – 3 hours of inmate activities. If he does not go to rec./yard, he gets less, around 1½ – 2 hours of inmate activities.

Actually, on paper, there is supposed to be another bit of range activities between the end of rec./yard movement, and 6pm ‘til 7pm lock-up (staff breaks), but that NEVER happens (loss of about 30-40 minutes).

And, if there is no work on a given day, then the inmate is locked in his cell all day (period!).

Let me tell you, I wish I could get 4 hours a day out of my cell. So would any “population” inmate!

Future proposals concern finding staff are being considered. It may be that full-time school inmates will have their days (Mon., Tue., Thurs.) cut to AM only (MORE CELL TIME). Well, consider this. Guys don’t seek employment for the pay, that’s for damn sure! I’m sure this isn’t news to you, but we get jobs in order to break up our days so as not to go nuts being locked in our ‘cages’ for excessive amounts of time.

“STAFF SHORTAGE” is NOT adequate reasoning for excessive lock-downs, just ask the provincial system.

ABOLISH SOLITARY CONFINEMENT? Not from our point of view! “Segregation” status still exists here at Millhaven. It’s called “general population”.

I’ve stated facts in support of my argument, and that’s the reality of it pure and simple.

Something needs to be done….and soon.

Brennan W. Guigue
January 31, 2019