Brennan Guigue: Appearances can be distorted……

……BY INCOMPLETE, INACCURATE OR MISLEADING INFORMATION.

Google the name ‘Brennan Guigue’.

Results reprinted from news outlet sources are dated in November of 2015. After that, the media lost interest when Brennan Guigue was arrested in Montreal and he was no longer the flavour of the month.

Police investigations and court proceedings over the next two years leading to a resolution in the fall of 2017 did not attract any broadcast and press attention, as Brennan Guigue did in 2015. But, that long undertaking would have moderated the mass media perspective of the man and his crimes that was first circulated in 2015.

There was no intent by the media to misinform five years ago. What was printed, what was seen, is what was available at the time, and what the police were circulating. It’s not unusual for sources to overstate a potentially dangerous situation, but it is rare to see later clarifications. That can be laid at the feet of investigators who prioritize the demands on their resources, and editors who decide what constitutes worthy news. Today’s demands on policing and the justice system trump yesterdays closed files for one, and the fourth estate is a business for another.

No pretty pictures come out of society’s underbelly. No perspective will make Brennan Guigue look good. As with anywhere in the spectrum though, there’s no black and white either. The predominance of grey blurs the landscape and shapes an ambivalence that leaves the observer with the task of discerning where the truth lies.

Never rush to judgement. Peel back the layers.

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…….

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……..

Beware the Voice in the Wilderness……

……WE’RE SHOOTING OURSELVES IN THE FOOT BEHIND THE WALLS.

Always worth repeating:

“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 this second installment of Brennan Guigue’s testimony from Millhaven Institution, he lays some groundwork for this debate assessing the efficacy of prison practices: –

“To continue, this is about food quality, inmate pay scales, inflation as it relates to the rise in canteen prices and inmate buying power, and how all of these things can tie into the mental and moral state of inmates in general. How things which can affect all of us as human beings don’t just stop because some of us are locked up. Fundamentally on a certain level we are all affected by the same things, and to deny this is simply pure-purposeful ignorance.

In 2016-2017 the Correctional Investigator produced his annual report. Now, we all know that the position carries no real weight to effect change within the system, but this report is the only thing out there which actually corroborates the hypocrisy my father speaks about in many of his writings on the subject. Just to note. Very little if anything has changed within the Correctional Service of Canada to date. In fact, conditions affecting the mental wellness of inmates continues to deteriorate.

As anyone who bothered to read the report knows, some of the key issues targeted for improvement were healthcare services, food and diet, inmate pay/employment (the gap between pay and inflation). In fact, we like to call the Healthcare Department the health ‘don’t care’ department.

Here’s the thing; the report stated that ‘although inmates have not had a pay scale increase in 30 years, CSC’s own numbers indicate costs have risen about 700% in the same period.’ If you don’t believe that, just ask the guard’s union. It’s one of their major pay arguments presented during contract negotiations.

The Harper government decided that if would be a good idea politically to target crime and criminals, that to be ‘tough on crime’ would certainly win many votes. In doing so, this country’s prisons became more concerned with crime and punishment, and less worried about reform and rehabilitation. There is now a system in place where not only have we not had a pay raise, but takes 30% of what little we earn for ‘room and board’. It breaks down to 22% for food and accommodation, and 8% for the inmate telephone service maintenance.

Sure, from a taxpayer’s point of view, that sounds like a great idea; why not have those damn criminals pay for their own incarceration. That is not where the problems arise. Add that 30% to 10% saving account, and 1-2% inmate welfare fund. Savings and IWF come off before anything else, then the other 30% comes off the rest, for a total almost 50% of an inmate’s full pay. An inmate’s full pay on average is about $5.85 daily at Level C. An inmate can increase his pay level every 16 weeks with good behaviour, good attendance, good performance, and so on. One needs ‘excellent’ ratings for these categories in order to get an upgrade to Level B or Level A, but he cannot receive more than $62.90 for 10 days work, and that’s only provided he actually gets a full 10 days in.

He may miss days for any number of reasons which may be caused by an institutional lock-down. Regardless of whether of not he is at fault, an inmate’s pay will still be cut in half for that day. Except for a couple of specific institutional jobs, a pay increase is almost impossible to achieve as it is very unlikely an inmate will every gain such a high ‘excellent’ rating on all seven or eight categories reviewed. It’s nothing personal; it is just a matter of principal to always have ‘the offender’ reaching for that carrot, so to speak.

In the past a Level C paying job used to earn an inmate about $47-$49 a week – gross. Now that same job earns the inmate, on average, about $28-$30 a week, provided he gets in all his 10 days. Factor into that institutional lockdowns, staff shortages, inmate escorts, etc. and the result in inmate earnings will be cut considerably.

This may seem tedious and boring, and I apologize for that; however, I ask that you bear with me as you will need this background information to understand my point. All of the things I speak of, and will speak of, have a cumulative effect on the attitudes, emotions and overall outlook of inmates living in, and getting out of these institutions.”

……continued.

A Voice in the Wilderness……

……FROM BEHIND THE WALLS.

Worth repeating:

“The security features inherent to 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

Brennan Guigue composed a testimony earlier this year from confinement in Millhaven Institution near Kingston in a letter addressed to no one….but intended for all. There is much to say about the cloistered reality of life under a penal system that is often cited as correctional in name only, and from a prison that is little more than a barren warehouse, desolate of hope.

In this first excerpt, inmate Brennan Guigue begins:-

“I am not sure to whom I should address this letter, nor am I certain that anyone will take up our cause.” He than references the proprietor of turnoverarocktoday.com as saying, “everyone loves to pick on inmates….to be tough-on-crime,” and describes the site as “a place he has created as a means of getting his opinions ‘out there’. He writes a lot about the hypocrisy of our democracy, as well as the incorrectness of Canada’s Correctional System (federal & provincial). How, through person experience, he has come to see that though the various media pages produced by these entities ‘talk’ a good game about justice, reform, and rehabilitation, the reality of what is really happening ‘behind the walls’ is truly a contradiction.

I guess that this letter is simply about venting some of the frustrations I live with as there seems not to be many other options available to me. Contrary to popular (mis)conception, prison is not all weight-pits, and video games. There are very real issues affecting the state of inmates in this country, issues which impede the desire of a society which claims to want better, healthier, contributing citizens to be reintegrated back into communities. How can this be true when the reality of the situation is so dismal? Did you know that inmates at Millhaven Maximum Penitentiary spend on average 20-22 hours a day locked up in their cells? Did you also know that there are absolutely no social development programs currently offered at the institution? So basically, inmates are expected to just vegetate in their cages until the powers that be see fit to allow them to move on. Tell me how much spiritual, emotional, or moral growth does one expect to happen under these conditions? As much as many of those in ‘society’ would like to lock us all away, that simply is not going to happen. Most of us will be getting out into your communities……like it or not. Now, I am not saying anything that hasn’t already been said many times over. Nor do I believe that what I will say is likely to have any real effect on what people think or say on the issue of ‘prison reform,’ but I’m gonna say it anyway.

The issue I want to speak about at the moment does not seem like such a big deal on the surface, but like most things with CSC, it is poorly thought out. However, policy makers don’t really care to think it out; it doesn’t have to make sense. After all, who’s gonna notice, who’s gonna care should anyone notice?”

……will be continued.

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