Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Prison Violence in Canada

"It is a reflection of higher inmate counts, the criminal histories of those in custody, and the growing number of inmates with addiction and mental health issues."
Kate Trotter, spokesperson, British Columbia Solicitor General's office

"This [prison inmate-on-inmate violence] clearly is a problem right across the country."
"[Prison] was never intended to be an informal network to hand out its own punishment."
"There's an obligation on the part of corrections [Correctional Services Canada] to do everything in their power to try and prevent this kind of assault."
John Peach, executive director, John Howard Society of Nova Scotia

"There have been complaints for years about the state of our institutions."
"This is far worse. It raises serious issues of safety, about the ability of correctional officers to respond, their authority, training, planning and supervision."
Justice Peter Wright, Nova Scotia justice system

"Inmates stealing from one another, fights being many-on-one, problems on the street being brought into institutions, and no consistent status hierarchy by crime being recognized [some of many breaches escalating in Canadian prisons resulting in violations of the] convict code."
"At the time I wrote my book, the trend to more violence was not evident; it has been in the last few years."
Michael Weinrath, criminologist, author: Behind the Walls, UBC Press, 2016

In a framegrab from a video from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional facility in Halifax, inmate Dwayne Wright is kicked by inmate Charles Wallace on Nov. 9, 2015.
In a framegrab from a video from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional facility in Halifax, inmate Dwayne Wright is kicked by inmate Charles Wallace on Nov. 9, 2015. (Nova Scotia Department of Justice/Canadian Press)
"An environment where prisoners are at higher risk of being assaulted . . . should not be part of the sentence."
Ivan Zinger, director, Correctional Investigator's office
According to the data available from Correctional Services Canada, annual inmate-on-inmate assaults out of federal prisons have escalated enormously, to the point where a 93 percent increase has been identified, growing from 301 such assaults a year in 2006-07 to 581 in 2014-5. These statistics represent a sudden rise in such assaults, also seen among prisoners sentenced to fewer than two years in jail.

British Columbia has seen assaults and attempted assaults escalate from some 880 in 2011 to about 1,200 in 2015. Last year Ontario saw 2,762 inmate-on-inmate assaults, a rise of 13 percent from those recorded a decade before. Total inmate-on-inmate assaults in Nova Scotia have risen from 195 two years ago, to 287 up to the present time. Annual assault numbers have doubled in Alberta, from 263 in 2007 to levels currently reflecting 528.

Prisons, according to courts where lawsuits have been brought, bear a responsibility to ensure the safety of inmates. And as long as these violent abuses continue, inmates will continue to sue the province where they take place, at a cost of millions of dollars representing the most serious cases. One suit has been brought by a former inmate alleging to have been severely beaten for five hours in the Surrey pre-trial jail.

Daniel Cunningham screamed for help as the beating progressed and other inmates cheered his attackers, while guards failed to react.
Correctional Service Canada statistics indicate that rates of violence among inmates in federal prisons are outpacing the country’s prison population growth.

Former inmate Francis Jesse Deguire launched his lawsuit against the Province of Ontario after being severely beaten while serving a short drunk driving sentence in Brockville. The attack he suffered by other inmates last year left him with bloody head injuries that almost detached his eyelid. A specialized computer system was meant to keep apart men who were seen to pose a danger to others, recognizing them as "incompatible", but it appears it rarely works as it should.

The result being that all too often such "incompatibles" are simply placed where caution says they should not be, as potential dangers to other prisoners. Nova Scotia's director of corrections stated the computer system experienced difficulties making the two-way links between incompatible prisoners, and is being worked on. That failing exposed 34-year-old Dwayne Wright, incarcerated for theft and breach of release conditions for a two-month period, to the "incompatible" Charles Wallace.

For his part, Charles Wallace, 40,  was in prison for drug possession. Wright was in a common room watching television when he was suddenly and viciously attacked from behind by Wallace. A closed-circuit video shows him collapsing to the floor, shoes flung off, and the man attempting to protect his face as Wallace completed his assault with six soccer kicks to Wright's head. After which he serenely continued pacing and chatting with another inmate.

Some of the beatings suffered by inmates have been serious enough to cause brain injuries and lifelong trauma, others have resulted in fatalities. The violence that is currently wracking prisons is said by some prison advocates and lawyers to represent the new prison reality. Video technology installed in the hope that its presence would deter attackers, appears to be ignored by them, while documenting the occurrence of vicious attacks.

One lawyer who has take on numerous such prison assault cases has represented clients who have suffered facial fractures, broken bones, and who have experienced impaired mobility as a result of jail violence. She states "the prison authorities have to take incompatibility more seriously". The Abbotsford lawyer points to "at least 15 open files" of prison beatings on her desk representing inmates who are suing the province of British Columbia.
Prison Radicals 20150429
The men's maximum security unit of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert. (Thomas Porter/Canadian Press)

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet