AGAINST PRISON
A Contribution to the Struggle Against Prison and its World

News 2011

Masked protesters could face jail

CBC.ca

May 6th 2012

The Harper government is throwing its weight behind a private member’s bill that would give police the power to arrest anyone hiding their identity during a riot or unlawful assembly.

Conservative backbencher Blake Richards is proposing penalties of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000 for protesters who wear a mask or disguise.

The bill, Richards said in an interview, is designed to give police more power to prevent the kinds of riots that have caused so much damage, including the current student riots in Quebec, the Stanley Cup riot of last spring in Vancouver and the G20 protests in Toronto two years ago.

“Certainly I’ve heard of instances where it is legitimate that there might be reasons that someone needs to protest anonymously and this bill certainly still allows for that,” said the second-term MP from Airdre, Alta., representing the riding of Wild Rose.

“I think it strengthens the right for peaceful protest. It’s only when individuals engage in criminal activity or become violent where this law would apply.”

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Sunday that the Conservative majority formally supports the legislation, meaning it is all but assured of becoming law.

“Destructive and reckless behaviour damages communities and should not be tolerated,” Nicholson said in a release.

Richards says the bill will allow police to step in and stopviolence and property damage if a protest turns ugly.

“Primarily I see this as a tool that will be a preventative one, one that will deter these situations from developing or from escalating in the first place,” he said.

But some civil libertarians are concerned that the legislation will give police the power to break up peaceful protests, which are frequently filled with people in costumes, masks or even face paint that could be construed as concealing identity under the new law.

The provisions of the legislation specify that it only applies during riots or “unlawful assembly,” a legal term in which police deem there to be reasonable grounds to expect a disturbance of the peace.

Françoise Boivin, the NDP justice critic, said the Official Opposition does not have a problem with the “concept” of the bill, but she says police already have the power to arrest and charge people intent on inciting a riot, and of using a mask to commit a crime.

Boivin argued that the additional law may simply muddy the water and give defence lawyers an opportunity to point out inconsistencies between the various statutes.

“We’re still not really convinced of that factor, that for police it will be easier [to prevent property damage],” she said.

“What will be a legitimate excuse to cover your faces?”

The bill would create two classes of offence.

Those who incite a riot wearing a mask “without lawful excuse” face an indictable offence with prison terms of up to five years.

For those “who participate in an unlawful assembly while wearing a mask or disguise to conceal identity,” the charge could be an indictable offence or a summary offence.

Under the summary offence, penalties range up to six months in jail and fines up to $5,000.

ON: Noise Demonstration at Toronto Metro West Jail

December 5th 2011

On the evening of Monday, December 5th, about twenty masked people descended on the Toronto Metro West Detention Centre for a noise demo for our comrades locked up inside these prison walls. Stuck in the middle of an industrial wasteland in the northwest part of Toronto, Metro West serves to incarcerate over 600 inmates from the Greater Toronto Area.

We arrived at the prison during a correctional officer shift change, and while we received a wealth of bewildered looks, the demo went off without a hitch with no police interference. When we got around to the back of the prison, we began shooting off fireworks and chanting slogans to the prisoners.

We were able to clearly see the faces of prisoners through their windows. We heard from one of our friends locked up on the inside that the whole building was rumbling with the sound of fists pounding against windows. Many hearts were filled with joy both inside and outside for this outpouring of love and rage. Discarded firework casings were then thrown at the building as we left the institution.

This action was a small act of solidarity with all those criminalized for their involvement in anti-capitalist resistance during the G20 in Toronto in June 2010.

Solidarity to prisoners in revolt and those criminalized for their thoughts and action.

- some Southern Ontario anarchists

Debating the crime bill…

The Vancouver Sun

December 1st 2011

“It’s a common occurrence for staff to receive threats from inmates. This year I’ve received seven threats, all documented appropriately…. My facility is like 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag.  Inmates are sleeping on filthy mattresses on filthy floors because of the lack of space, and the health care is atrocious. Men with problems such as an abscessed tooth can wait 3 or 4 weeks for dental treatment, and men with open wounds are living in filthy conditions, which lead to constant infections.  And even when people do see a doctor or dentist, there is little follow-up. The inmates are treated like animals, in conditions that I would not be able to tolerate myself.”

                                 -British Columbia Correctional Officer, November, 2011

In August of 2010 the Correctional Service of Canada issued a Commissioner’s Directive on Inmate Accommodation, mandating increases in the double bunking of federal inmates. The Directive noted that the passage of The Tackling Violent Crime Act and The Truth in Sentencing Act were exerting pressure on current prison capacities and that “Even with proposed accommodation identified in CSC’s annual plans, the Service will be forced to increase the level of double bunking”.

The Directive also noted that “double bunking (one cell designed for one inmate occupied by two) is inappropriate as a permanent accommodation measure within the context of good corrections”.

By now, most informed Canadians know about the crime bill, poised to pass into law in the very near future, given a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. We know that crime has been decreasing since the 1990s, but that under the Harper Conservatives imprisonment has been increasing. The new bill aims to send new categories of non-violent criminals to jail: most notably, those previously sentenced to conditional terms of imprisonment; marijuana cultivators; and user-dealers of other illicit drugs (often individuals with a complex web of mental health and substance abuse issues). But let’s put aside the obvious – and justifiable – critique of the legislation: that it’s expensive, unnecessary and not at all focussed on violent crime.

What’s even more appalling is that this dramatic increase in prisoners is being imposed upon the current state of Canada’s prisons. Double bunking is now routine, federally and provincially, with adverse impacts on the safety of both inmates and correctional officers. At Stony Mountain prison in Manitoba and Mission Institution in B.C., matters are even worse: segregated inmates are sharing cells, a situation described by the Office of the Correctional Investigator as “a violation of government policy, the Charter of Rights, and international human rights standards”.

Put differently, we haven’t begun to see the impacts of the omnibus crime bill, and we are already in serious trouble. In British Columbia inmate to staff ratios in provincial corrections have doubled over the last decade, and both assaults against staff and inmate on inmate assaults have escalated dramatically; the Office of the Correctional Investigator for Canada has noted a similar escalation of violence in federal facilities. The B.C. government has announced plans to build a new correctional centre, but it appears unlikely that the construction of that prison will even come close to keeping pace with the increases in imprisonment that the crime bill will produce.

Perhaps the intent of the Conservative crime bill is to imprison a greater percentage of Canadians convicted of criminal offences, and to impose a more harsh and difficult regime of imprisonment upon them. The logic may be that if imprisonment is nasty and brutish, those imprisoned will be less likely to return.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that being treated badly in prison will decrease the likelihood of an individual committing further crimes after release. In fact, the evidence suggests the contrary. Tragically, there is already very little room in Canada’s prison systems for any focus on rehabilitation — on assisting the re-integration of offenders into the community. The crime bill can only serve to impose greater stresses on such possibilities.

As matters stand now, both provincial and federal prisons have significant percentages of mentally disordered offenders behind their walls, individuals easily victimized by other inmates and inappropriately housed in these settings. Double-bunking continues to increase, and assaults against both officers and inmates continue to rise. The Conservative government is intent upon increasing inmate populations in both federal and provincial correctional centres. It is particularly tragic that, if only by neglect, they are willing to risk the health and safety of both correctional officers and inmates in order to accomplish their goals.

AB: Edmonton mayor does not want new prisons

The Calgary Herald

November 30th 2011

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel demanded Tuesday that the federal government stop building prison cells in the city because dealing with ex-inmates costs police too much money.

“We have more than our fair share of prisoners in our city. We don’t want any more,” Mandel said. “If the federal government wants to expand prisons, do it elsewhere. . . . We have done our share.”

Mandel is concerned the federal and provincial governments don’t sufficiently reimburse cities for the costs of dealing with justice issues, which can include everything from “tough on crime” laws to processing bail applications.

“They need to start paying for those things, for the challenges of municipalities they put upon us,” he told reporters.

“It always winds up being downloaded on cities. We don’t want any more prison space here. We have enough, that’s quite clear. . . . We bear that cost for the entire region.”

The issue came up as council looked at the 2012 police budget request, which includes $4.8 million to hire an extra 65 officers and three other staff to carry out Chief Rod Knecht’s violence-reduction strategy.

One factor in the growing police workload is the expansion of local federal prisons. Edmonton is home to about 400 paroled inmates, Knecht said.

Last January, Ottawa announced plans to add 90 beds to the maximum-security Edmonton Institution by 2014, part of a $2-billion national prison-expansion plan.

As well as the 298-inmate Max, police say, there are four other federal facilities in Edmonton with a further 201 prisoners: the Institution for Women, Stan Daniels Healing Centre, Grierson Centre and Buffalo Sage Healing Centre.

Local inmate numbers could grow under an omnibus crime bill being debated in Parliament that includes mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offences.

“There might be some savings, there might be some costs,” Knecht said, adding he hasn’t finished analyzing the implications of the bill.

“People that are on parole or in the community, they might cause some stressors. We haven’t looked at that . . . in the simplest terms, it might be the requirement to transfer a person from point A to point B for court.”

A spokeswoman for the Correctional Service of Canada couldn’t confirm how many parolees live in Edmonton or other cities.

“We assist them by encouraging them to live pro-social lives and to achieve safe reintegration at appropriate times. Release destinations for our offenders can be as a result of numerous factors such as family and employment.”

ON: Prefabricated prison to open in September 2012

Inside Toronto

November 24th 2011

Ontario’s first prefabricated prison is rising in south Etobicoke.

It is Lego-inspired construction.

A massive crane lifted precast concrete modules, two jail cells each, stacked into three seven-storey towers earlier this year.

Construction of the maximum-security Toronto South Detention Centre to house 1,650 inmates is intended to replace the aging and overcrowded 19th century Don Jail, as well as the medium-security Mimico Correctional Centre.

Ontario’s soon-to-be newest prison is now 80 per cent complete, Infrastructure Ontario reports. It will open in September 2012.

The nearly $594-million contract awarded to ITS Consortium, a joint venture between Ellis Don and Fengate Capital, is principally building a maximum-security complex, but also concurrently constructing the Toronto Intermittent Centre for as many as 320 inmates serving primarily weekend sentences.

The prison is less than five kilometres from the nearest residential neighbourhoods in Alderwood and Ourland.

“It will be built to the highest security standards ensuring every measure is taken to maintain community safety,” Infrastructure Ontario spokesperson Terence Foran said. “The facility employs state-of-the-art physical and electronic security systems and expertly trained staff to ensure the facility is safe and secure.”

The jail is a first for Ontario, if not for the country, built entirely from prefabricated pieces, including hundreds of cells complete with windows, wiring and plumbing shipped by rail from Atlanta.

South Carolina-based Tindall Corporation built the cells to Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ specifications.

Tindall-engineered cells have housed more than 62,000 inmates and detainees, the company reports.

Fast-track modular assembly offers many benefits.

There is the relative ease and speed of assembly. There is consistency among the units. Precast results in limited interior and exterior maintenance, Tindall reported.

Design and construction of the detention centre will target LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification, Infrastructure Ontario spokesperson Terence Foran said.

LEED buildings focus on healthy indoor environments, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and efficient use of energy, water and other resources.

Ministry of Corrections has reported the Horner Avenue project is expected to generate as much as $120 million in construction job salaries over the life of the project. At its peak, the project employed 500 construction jobs. Currently, 275 construction workers are on the site daily.

The former Mimico Correctional Centre site has a century-old storied history.

The Mimico Correctional Centre opened in 1887 as the Victoria Industrial School for Boys, a juvenile reformatory, the Ministry of Corrections reported.

In 1913, the Toronto Brick and Tile company was built, a satellite camp run by the Toronto Central Prison, an adult-male institution in Parkdale. The plant could produce two million bricks a year for Ontario government use.

During the Second World War, the site was used as a Prisoner of War camp for German prisoners, known as Camp 22. Many of the prisoners were Merchant-marines and U-boat crewmen.

After the war, Ontario Reformatory-Mimico occupied 200 acres on the site, on which were dairy cows, pigs and poultry.

In 1952, four new buildings opened. In 1967, the large farming operation ended with the sale of 160 acres to the Borough of Etobicoke to create an industrial park.

In 1972, Ontario Reformatory-Mimico became the Mimico Correctional Centre.

BC: Working conditions inside prisons: “depressing, frightening”

[AP - You're god damned right they are...]

Canada Newswire

November 22nd 2011

A report released today by Simon Fraser University criminologist Neil Boyd presents a disturbing picture of British Columbia’s prisons.

The report, “Correctional Officers in British Columbia 2011: Abnormal Working Conditions”, is based on a survey of more than 200 correctional officers in the province.

Among the report’s findings, during the past year:

  • More than 90 per cent of correctional officers had been exposed to blood, and more than 75 per cent to feces, spit and urine;

  • Two thirds had received a credible threat of harm from an inmate;

  • Almost 40 per cent had been hit by feces, urine, vomit or spit, and more than one in four had been physically assaulted by an inmate;

  • More than 80 per cent had responded to a serious injury to an inmate, and almost 20 per cent had witnessed the death of an inmate;

  • More than 90 per cent indicated their jobs have become more difficult and stressful.

These numbers come at a time when prison populations include increased numbers of mentally disordered inmates and gang involved inmates, and inmate to staff ratios as high as 60 to 1.  Prior to 2002 inmate to staff ratios were typically 20 to 1.

“Correctional officers in B.C. are significantly more likely to experience on the job violence than any other protective service worker in the province including police, security guards and firefighters. Even more troubling, the levels of violence appear to be increasing,” says Boyd.

The report makes several recommendations to reverse these trends including reducing the inmate to staff ratio to pre-2002 levels and reviewing the model of direct supervision incarceration that does not work at the current staffing ratios. The report also calls on the government to address the working conditions inside B.C. prisons and improve workplace health and safety.

“Correctional officers have some of the most difficult and violent jobs in our province. The government must address in a meaningful way what is going on inside these institutions,” says Boyd. “The current system is bad for the men and women who work there, bad for the inmates we should be rehabilitating and bad for our justice system as a whole.”

“This report exposes the violence and dangers our members face each and every day they report to work. It should be troubling for all British Columbians and a wake up call for our government to stop ignoring the deteriorating conditions inside our prisons,” says Dean Purdy of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, which commissioned the report.

To see the report including an executive summary visit www.bcgeu.ca

Longer prison terms for rioters who dons a masks

The Vancouver Sun

November 12th 2011

A private member’s bill to ban the use of masks in the midst of a riot is set to see its first round of debate in the House of Commons Thursday.

The bill comes as Vancouver police are handing out posters to try to round up a number of suspects they say participated in June’s Stanley Cup riots.

Alberta Conservative MP Blake Richards says his bill – dubbed the Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act – is an attempt to prevent violence in the streets by making it illegal to wear a disguise while an individual is part of a riot.

When a riot starts, he said, “there’s so much going that police have a very difficult time to identify who these people are. This just gives [police] another tool to make an arrest of someone who is clearly in a riot situation: they’re disguising themselves, they’ve obviously got an intention to do something that they don’t want to be identified when they are doing it.”

Richards’ bill would amend the Criminal Code section that imposes a jail term of up to two years for participating in a riot or unlawful assembly. If the bill is passed, wearing a mask and taking part in a riot would increase that jail term to five years.

Texas conservatives reject Canada’s crime plan

CBC News

October 17th 2011

Conservatives in the United States’ toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction — Texas — say the Harper government’s crime strategy won’t work.

“You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up,” says Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. “And there will come a point in time where the public says, ‘Enough!’ And you’ll wind up letting them out.”

Adds Representative Jerry Madden, a conservative Republican who heads the Texas House Committee on Corrections, “It’s a very expensive thing to build new prisons and, if you build ‘em, I guarantee you they will come. They’ll be filled, OK? Because people will send them there.

“But, if you don’t build ‘em, they will come up with very creative things to do that keep the community safe and yet still do the incarceration necessary.”

These comments are in line with a coalition of experts in Washington, D.C., who attacked the Harper government’s omnibus crime package, Bill C-10, in a statement Monday.

“Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs,” said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.

“If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs.”

A state with a record

On a recent trip to Texas, an array of conservative voices told CBC News that Texas tried what Canada plans to do – and it failed.

As recently as 2004, Texas had the highest incarceration rate in the world, with fully one in 20 of its adult residents behind bars, on parole or on probation. The Lone Star state still has the death penalty, with more than 300 prisoners on death row today. But for three decades, as crime rates fell all over the U.S., the rate in Texas fell at only half the national average.

That didn’t change the policy — but its cost did.

Faced with a budget crisis in 2005, the Texas statehouse was handed an estimate of $2 billion to build new prisons for a predicted influx of new prisoners.

They told Madden to find a way out. He and his committee dug into the facts. Did all those new prisoners really need to go to jail? And did all of those already behind bars really need to be there?

Madden’s answer was, no. He found that Texas had diverted money from treatment and probation services to building prisons. But sending people to prison was costing 10 times as much as putting them on probation, on parole, or in treatment.

“It was kinda silly, what we were doing,” says Madden. Then, he discovered that drug treatment wasn’t just cheaper — it cut crime much more effectively than prison.

That was the moment, he says, when he knew: “My colleagues are gonna understand this. The public is gonna understand this.…The public will be safer and we will spend less money!”

His colleagues agreed. Texas just said no to the new prisons.

Instead, over the next few years, it spent a fraction of the $2 billion those prisons would have cost — about $300 million — to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centres, probation services and community supervision for prisoners out on parole.

It worked. Costs fell and crime fell, too. Now, word of the Canadian government’s crime plan is filtering down to Texas and it’s getting bad reviews.

Marc Levin, a lawyer with an anti-tax group called Right on Crime, argues that building more prisons is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“We’ve see a double-digit decline in the last few years in Texas, both in our prison incarceration rate and, most importantly in our crime rate,” says Levin.

“And the way we’ve done it is by strengthening some of the alternatives to prison.”

The statistics bear him out. According to the Texas Department of Corrections, the rate of incarceration fell 9 per cent between 2005 and 2010. In the same period, according to the FBI, the crime rate in Texas fell by 12.8 per cent.

By contrast, Levin says, the Canadian government has increased the prison budget sharply, even though crime in Canada is down to its lowest level since 1973.

In fact, federal spending on corrections in Canada has gone up from $1.6 billion in 2005-06, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives took power, to $2.98 billion in 2010-11. That’s an increase of 86 per cent. Soon, it will double.

The Harper government has already increased prison sentences by scrapping the two-for-one credit for time served waiting for trial. Bill C-10 would add new and longer sentences for drug offences, increase mandatory minimums and cut the use of conditional sentences such as house arrest.

In each case, Texas is doing the opposite.

So are several other states — egged on by a group of hardline conservatives who have joined the Right on Crime movement. These include Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the tax-fighter Grover Norquist and the former attorney general for President Ronald Reagan, Ed Meese.

That’s not a list of liberals. Marc Levin says Canada is out of step with the best conservative thinking south of the border.

“We’ve seen in the United States, states and conservative leaders moving in a much different direction than the Conservative Party is saying in Canada,” he says.

“I think the conservative thing to do is to be cost-effective and to hold offenders accountable. And, frankly, for many of them, they go to prison, they don’t pay child support, they don’t have to work in the private sector, they don’t pay restitution — I don’t believe that’s holding people accountable.”

Hugging criminals? In Texas?

What Levin means by accountability is what happens at Judge John Creuzot’s drug court in Dallas.

Thieves, drug addicts and drunk drivers must file into Creuzot’s courtroom each week as a condition of their sentences. They’re on probation with the threat of prison hanging over them. They must prove they are keeping up with their drug treatment.

Creuzot cajoles, threatens and lectures them to stick with the program — but he also rewards them when they succeed. If they graduate from treatment, clean and sober, he holds an awards ceremony in his courtroom. Then, he gives them a big, back-slapping Texas hug.

“Congratulations, bro!” he says as he wraps his arms around a hulking ex-addict. “Proud of ya!” he says as he hugs another and places a medal around her neck.

Hugs? From a judge in the state that gave us chain gangs?

It’s not your father’s Texas. But Creuzot isn’t all hugs. He renders a blunt verdict when he is asked what’s wrong with the Harper government’s plan to get criminals off Canadian streets.

“Nothing, if you don’t mind spending a lot of money locking people up and seeing your crime rate go up! Nothing wrong with it at all!”

Creuzot says prison just doesn’t work as well as the less expensive methods he uses — because, one way or another, drugs and alcohol lie at the root of 80 per cent of crimes.

“What we’ve learned,” he says, “is that if you deal with those underlying issues with the proper assessments up front, doing that before you make a sentencing decision … and you fund programs that will deal with that on a long-term basis, that you avoid sending thousands of people to prison.”

But isn’t all the treatment expensive?

“It’s less expensive!” Creuzot snaps. “We had a university do a cost-benefit analysis. And every dollar we spend is worth $9 and 34 cents in avoided criminal justice costs.”

Other studies in Texas agree that treatment and probation services cost about one-tenth of what it costs to build and run prisons. Besides that, offenders emerge much less likely to commit fresh crimes than those with similar records who go to prison.

Getting results

At Phoenix House, a drug treatment centre in Wilmer, just south of Dallas, Dr. Teresa May-Williams is a forensic psychologist, paid to assess the risk of letting offenders out on parole or in treatment. She’s found that prison is even riskier.

“We can’t ignore the fact that our ‘tough on crime’ stance that puts a person in prison and assumes that their drug problem will somehow magically disappear while they’re incarcerated and they’ll never get out again and offend, is ridiculous!” she says.

May-Williams says most offenders with drug or alcohol problems quickly resume their criminal lifestyle when they get out of prison.

“The data showed that 60 per cent of those individuals will be out and committing a new crime in, on average, about 11 months.”

That’s four times the rate of those who go through her six-month program instead.

“A big focus of it is getting their drug problem under control,” she says, “and then beginning to work on education, job training, getting them employed, getting them focused on becoming a tax payer rather than a tax user. The recidivism rate for probation, the same kind of offender, is somewhere around 15-16 per cent.”

A ‘hopeless’ case

Equally striking is that even the hardest cases can respond to court-ordered treatment.

Kathryn Griffin, by her own account, was a “hopeless” case.

Loquacious, loud and candid, Griffin had six felonies on her record — for drug possession and prostitution — so she was facing 35 years to life in jail when she came to court in Houston, yet again.

“I’m a person who had a $30,000-a-month cocaine habit for 22 years!” she says. But, “I am totally clean and sober today.”

And she’s stayed clean for eight years — because, she says, she was a “guinea pig” in what was, back then, a new experiment: drug court.

The judge gave her a choice: get clean in drug treatment or flunk out — and die in prison.

She made it. Now, she has a job counselling street prostitutes, pays taxes and tells anyone who will listen that Texas, too, has changed its ways.

“What I like about this state and our government is they are willing to listen, look, study, learn and see results.”

Left, right and middle-of-the-road Texans are recommending that Canada do the same — and the conservatives most of all.

California Prison Hunger Strike Ends

October 18th 2011

Imagine a concrete room no more than eight by ten feet. It has no windows, only a perforated steel door facing a solid concrete wall. Fluorescent lights stay on 24 hours a day.

Now imagine being locked in that room.

This is the reality for 1,111 people locked in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. The SHU comprises half of the prison. It is explicitly designed to keep prisoners in long-term solitary confinement under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Men are locked into their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Food is delivered twice a day through a slot in the cell door. They are allowed five hours a week of exercise in a cement yard the length of three cells with a roof only partially open to the sky.

Prison administrators place men in the SHU either for a fixed term for violating a prison rule or for an indeterminate term because they have been accused of being prison gang members, often by confidential informants and highly dubious evidence. Prisoners who have been “validated” as gang members are released from the SHU into the general prison population only if they “debrief” or provide information incriminating other prisoners. Debriefing can be dangerous to both the prisoner who debriefs and his family on the outside. In addition, prisoners are often falsely identified as gang members by others who debrief in order to escape the SHU. One does not necessarily need to be a gang member to be sent to the SHU: jailhouse lawyers and others who challenge inhumane prison conditions are disproportionately sent to the SHU. Mutope DuGoya is one of those men: he states that, in 2001, despite his work with Code 4, the prison’s Scared Straight program and his record of remaining free of violations for six years, he was placed in SHU on the word of a confidential informant. (Letter from DuGoya, dated September 21, 2011.) Another prisoner, who has been in SHU for 21 years, writes, “Because I am here with people who the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] have labeled as being gang-involved, the CDCR uses that to confirm that I am involved with a gang.” (Letter from person in Pelican Bay SHU, dated September 26, 2011.)

These atrocities are not limited to Pelican Bay. California holds nearly 4,000 people in SHUs and nearly 14,500 in other forms of segregation within its prison system. Over 240 of these people are women, who are often guarded and watched by male staff, even when they are undressing, showering or on the toilet. Transgender and transsexual prisoners are often likely to be placed in isolation.

Pelican Bay State Prison opened in December 1989. Almost immediately, prisoners began filing complaints about abusive conditions.

In 1993, over 3,500 prisoners signed onto Madrid v. Gomez, a class-action lawsuit that charged prison officials with abuse and violation of their human rights. In 1995, the federal court issued injunctions aimed at eliminating excessive force, improving health care and removing prisoners with mental illness from the Security Housing Unit. Although he stated that conditions “hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable,” the presiding judge stopped short of declaring the physical structure of long-term solitary confinement unconstitutional.

In 1994, Steven Castillo, who charges that prison administrators placed him in SHU in retaliation for his hunger strikes and numerous lawsuits against CDCR, filed Castillo v. Alamedia. Seven years later, in 2001, Castillo and approximately 1,000 other prisoners at Pelican Bay and a second California prison launched a six-day hunger strike, protesting the prison’s gang policy. The strike was suspended after California State Sen. Richard Polanco intervened and vowed to help broker a resolution. Although Polanco’s office convened several meetings between corrections officials and prisoners over the next year, no changes resulted. In 2002, Castillo and 60 prisoners at Pelican Bay again launched a hunger strike. The strike lasted three weeks, but no changes in CDCR’s debriefing policy occurred.

In 2004, ten years after Castillo v. Alamedia was filed, a settlement agreement was reached that, ostensibly, would reshape the debriefing policy governing release from SHU. However, the substantial changes promised never happened and, seven years later, conditions in SHU remain fundamentally unchanged.

In 2010, prisoners at Pelican Bay drafted and sent a Formal Complaint about conditions to lawmakers, prison and CDCR officials and then-Governor Schwarzenegger. “CDCR’s response was ‘file a grievance if you haven’t already,’” recalled Todd Ashker, a co-author of the Complaint. “Then we were locked down, even more, in our cells from July 2010 to February/March 2011.” During that time, the prisoners agreed that “something had to be done … It was agreed, a peaceful protest via hunger strike was our best option, the goal being to expose the illegal policies and practices to the mainstream media (and thereby masses of people) and, with outside support, pressure/force meaningful changes!” (Letter from Todd Ashker, dated September 25, 2011.)

On July 1, 2011, SHU prisoners began a hunger strike with five core demands:

  1. Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;

  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;

  3. Comply with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;

  4. Provide adequate food;

  5. Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

“No one wants to die,” stated hunger-striker DuGoya. “Yet under this current system of what amounts to immense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms.”

Over the course of the three-week hunger strike, at least 1,035 of the SHU’s 1,111 inmates refused food. The strike spread to 13 other state prisons and involved at least 6,600 people incarcerated throughout California.

Outside prison walls, family members, advocates and concerned community members took action to draw attention to the hunger strike. In Oakland, supporters held a weekly vigil on Thursday evenings. On July 9, supporters organized demonstrations in cities throughout the US and Canada. On July 18, 200 family members, lawyers and outside supporters from across California converged upon CDCR headquarters in Sacramento, delivered a petition of over 7,500 signatures in support of the hunger strikers and then marched to Governor Brown’s office to demand answers. That same day, supporters in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City and Philadelphia also held solidarity rallies.

On July 14, two weeks into the strike, CDCR Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan spoke to representatives of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. He promised that their demands would be addressed and that the CDCR would enact positive changes over time.

On July 20, Kernan and other CDCR administrators again met with hunger strike representatives. Again, Kernan made assurances about positive changes to SHU and stated that he would provide specifics about their demands in a couple of weeks. The hunger strike representatives met and discussed Kernan’s proposals. They decided to temporarily suspend the hunger strike to allow CDCR a grace period to fulfill their promises.

The next month, on August 19, prisoner representatives met with Kernan and other administrators. Kernan had no specific plans regarding the hunger strikers’ core demands, but, as the prisoner representatives noted, offered only “very vague, general terms, about CDCR staff working to come up with some type of step down program for inmates to get out of SHU, which does not require debriefing-informant status.” The representatives asked that specific details be provided on paper to all SHU sections. Kernan agreed to begin providing documentation within two weeks.

Sparked by the hunger strike, its ensuing publicity and community pressure on legislators, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Commission held a hearing on SHU conditions on August 23. Former SHU prisoners, family members, attorneys, advocates and psychiatrists testified about the need for substantial changes to SHU policies and practices. CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, who was a negotiator with the hunger strike representatives, also testified.

On August 31, SHU staff issued memos stating that prisoners would be allowed to have handballs on the yard and the ability to purchase sweatsuits. If they remained free of disciplinary violations for one year and gained committee approval, they would be allowed to have a yearly photo taken and to purchase art pens and drawing paper from the prison canteen. None of the core demands were addressed.

In addition, many strike participants were issued a disciplinary memo stating, “Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director’s Rules and this documentation is intended to record your actions and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior.”

Prison officials have retaliated against the hunger strikers in other ways. According to Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “Prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough. It’s clear that prison officials are trying to intimidate these men and to make them ineligible for any privileges or changes that may be forced by the strike.”

On September 2, a memo entitled Gang Management Proposal (dated August 25) was issued to the four principal representatives of the hunger strike. Hunger striker Antonio Guillen wrote that the proposal is, “by far the most punitive and restrictive program I have ever seen. It is way worse than what we have in place now and that’s saying something because the current program is, in part, what prompted the hunger strike.” It also widens the criteria from “‘traditional prison gangs’ ” to “anyone they consider to be problematic.” (Statement from Guillen that came with a letter dated September 27, 2011.) Kernan himself alluded to this during his testimony on August 23: “We believe that the current process, which targets six prison gangs, needs to be modified and what we really need to do is identify security threat groups … our policies target just the prison gangs today and we’re not capturing the inmates that perhaps should be segregated from our population.”

Despite these threats, prisoners throughout California resumed their hunger strike on September 26. By the third day, nearly 12,000 were participating. The strike spread not only to 12 prisons inside California, but also to prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma that are housing California prisoners.

In response, the CDCR classified the strike as an organized disturbance and transferred hunger strikers form the SHU to Administrative Segregation, where they lose access to all of their personal possessions and are denied access to their mail (including legal mail). According to recent interviews with the men, they have only a jumpsuit, a mattress and a thin blanket. The transfer could also negatively affect parole decisions. The retaliation has caused the number of hunger strikers to drop. In addition, hunger strikers at other prisons report that the CDCR has been undercounting the number of participants, refusing to mark men as hunger strikers if they drink liquids or touch the food tray.

Prison officials have also retaliated against outside supporters: Carol Strickman and Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus, had been involved in extensive discussions with corrections officials, including Kernan and leaders of the strike. On September 29, the Department of Corrections placed them under investigation, alleging that they “violated the laws and policies governing the safe operations of institutions within the CDCR.” Both attorneys are banned from all California prisons until the investigation is concluded. Attorneys who were able to visit reported that the CDCR has the air conditioning on high in 50-degree weather.

On October 13, prisoners at Pelican Bay ended their nearly-three week hunger strike after the CDCR guaranteed a comprehensive review of every prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation under new criteria. Two days later, hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison stopped their strike to allow time to regain their strength.

“This is something the prisoners have been asking for and it is the first significant step we’ve seen from the CDCR to address the hunger strikers’ demands,” says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, “But as you know, the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see if the CDCR keeps its word regarding this new process.”

Prison hunger striker gains Montreal support

The McGill Daily

October 13th 2011

A small group of protesters gathered in front of the American consulate in Montreal on Friday to demonstrate their solidarity with a group of striking prison inmates in California.

The protest, organized by the Montreal Hunger Strike Support Committee, is part of a larger movement that aims to improve inmates’ standard of living.

Inmates across California are undertaking a hunger strike to demand better conditions behind bars. The strike, which began on July 1, was organized by inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit, where prisoners are kept isolated in windowless, soundproof cells.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 811 inmates are currently involved in the strike, down from a peak of 4,252 in July. An inmate is considered to be on a hunger strike if they have missed more than nine consecutive meals.

Some activists have likened conditions inside Security Housing Units (SHUs) to torture. Ed Mead, a former inmate at Washington State Penitentiary, described the living conditions in SHUs.

“Those prisoners are subjected to total isolation. They have no communication with anyone and they are kept in what is essentially is a dog kennel,” he said.

Mead added that the only way to get out was to “snitch” on other inmates. This practice, known as “debriefing,” is one of the main grievances of the strikers.

Isaac Ontiveros, the communications director of Critical Resistance, an American organization whose goal is the abolishment of the prison-industrial complex, explained the practice.

“What happens is that prisoners are forced to identity themselves or others as high level gang leaders,” said Ontiveros. “This creates all kinds of problems, it makes so that people end up in the security housing unit for many years, it effects their safety if they return to the general prison population, it effects their parole, and it creates a vicious circle in which prisoners are forced to fabricate information on one another.”

According to Ontiveros, Critical Resistance has blamed “debriefing” for causing the prolonged solitary incarceration of inmates, some for as long as 20 years.

“The health effects of this kind of imprisonment are devastating.  They’re not just devastating to the prisoners themselves, but to their family members as well. It follows people from inside of prison to their lives outside of prison, if they ever get out,” Ontiveros said.

Ontiveros has also criticized the response from the Pelican Bay administration.

“The administration is creating this culture of intimidation. They identified the leaders of the strike and destroyed their personal items; they also did a variety of disciplinary write-ups against participants,” Ontiveros said.

Others were also threatened with solitary confinement.

For Mead, the hunger strike at Pelican Bay is part of a larger problem. Inmates in security housing units, he said, often have mental health issues.

“Mental health facilities in the United States have been emptied out. Most of [those with mental health issues] find themselves in prisons, and once in prisons, they’re also disruptive, so they end up in the security housing units,” he said.

The reasoning behind the Pelican Bay strike, he said, is obvious.

“Anytime you treat human beings like animals, deprive them of any self worth, you’re going to have those kinds of problems,” Mead said.

With the highest prison population rate in the world and tight budget constraints, correctional facilities in the United States are subject to overcrowding and often lack the means to care for mentally ill inmates.

While the Canadian correctional system has historically differed from the American model, Maria, a spokesperson from the Montreal Hunger Strike Support Committee, claims that this may no longer be the case.

The budget of the Correctional Service of Canada has expanded significantly under the current government. Most of that money, she said, is directed towards the building of new prisons.

“The general gist is to get more people in prison,” she said.

On women behind bars

Vancouver Sun

October 12th 2011

Women’s prisons in Canada are so short of space that inmates – some mentally ill or suicidal – have been sleeping in interview rooms without toilets or running water.

The space crunch comes as violence among female prisoners, including self-inflicted injuries, has jumped to disturbing levels.

To cope with a growing prison population, authorities have been forced to place inmates in a converted gymnasium and visitor trailers.

“I will acknowledge that these measures are not preferable,” commissioner Don Head, head of Canada’s federal prison system, wrote in a June 29 letter to the federal prison ombudsman that was obtained under access-to-information laws.

“There are limited alternatives available within our current infrastructure.”

In an interview, Head says the female offender population – which has ballooned by 40 per cent during the past decade – has grown much faster than anticipated.

He said many judges are now sentencing women to two years plus a day to send them to the federal system instead of provincial jails, which offer fewer programs and services.

However, this trend is unfolding as the women’s prison system faces a sharp increase in violence behind prison walls, a decade after the infamous Kingston Prison For Women was closed and the system revamped.

The number of inmate fights, disciplinary problems, assaults on guards and other “incidents” shot up by more than 50 per cent in a one-year period ending April 2010, according to separate prison data obtained through an access-to-information request.

A majority of the incidents, such as Ashley Smith’s strangulation death, were self-inflicted injuries, which have more than tripled to 260 from 73 during the past two years.

But the violence was also directed outward. Assaults on staff more than doubled to 34 from 16. Inmate fights climbed to 45 from 37 while assaults on inmates rose to 59 from 48.

Experts say the data paints a disturbing picture.

“The more crowded correctional centres become, the more opportunities there are for violence,” said correctional investigator Howard Sapers, who serves as the country’s prison ombudsman.

Former inmate Carol Ann Borrens agrees. During a sixmonth stint at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., Borrens says she saw inmates assaulting each other in the communitystyle cottages with no guards present.

“These are people that are in jail culture. They’ve been in and out all their lives. They’re friends, and everybody knows everybody. They run the jails and they are very violent,” said Borrens, 62, who was serving time for drug possession.

“It’s not a community. It’s a violent prison like anywhere else. They’re trying to make it seem like everything is hunky dory because you have nice bedrooms.”

Head blames most problems on a handful of inmates who continuously hurt themselves or others.

“Even though the number of women that are involved in those incidents is relatively small, we still have an obligation to try to find some answers to help them out, because there’s no question they have significant issues, they have significant problems,” he says.

A year-long Postmedia News investigation found other troubling problems in Canada’s prison system for women:

. It appears women are becoming more violent. For example, the number of women incarcerated for violent crimes such as manslaughter, attempted murder and aggravated assault soared by 38 per cent during the past decade.

. Aboriginal women now represent almost a third of all inmates in Canada, but only three per cent of the overall population. They are the fastest-growing prison population in the country.

. Female inmates are causing more problems inside prisons. The number of high-level institutional convictions against women already serving time in prison – serious breaches of security, violent behaviour or harming staff and inmates – rose by 60 per cent over the past decade.

. A small number of violent, high-risk inmates – such as the country’s only female dangerous offender, Renee Acoby – are wreaking havoc on prison life for other women, guards say.

. Gang problems are beginning to infiltrate women’s institutions, mirroring the trend that swept through men’s penitentiaries in the 1990s. Experts and guards say if the issue isn’t addressed quickly, street gangs could “infect” women’s prisons.

All this comes as prison officials are preparing for a jump in female inmates streaming into the system.

Laws that eliminate the twofor-one credit for time served awaiting trial, introduce mandatory minimum sentences for serious gun crimes and do away with accelerated parole review are expected to boost the number of women behind bars.

An omnibus crime bill by the Harper government supporting mandatory sentences for some drug and sexual crimes is also expected to pass during this session of Parliament.

“The Correctional Service of Canada has its back right up against the wall when it comes to accommodations,” Sapers said.

Access-to-information documents show female inmates in the secure unit for maximum security offenders are being double-bunked to deal with the crowding.

The ombudsman wants the prison service to stop placing inmates from segregation and secure units in cells together.

“Double-bunking is not a safe correctional practice, but it is especially problematic in very restrictive correctional environments,” Sapers, a former Alberta provincial politician, wrote in a letter to Head on June 6.

In the Edmonton prison earlier this year, four women were housed in a visiting room during the month of March, according to correspondence between the commissioner and the prison ombudsman.

“The room has no running water, no toilet facilities and no built-in cell call alarm system, nor does it offer the amount of living space, privacy and dignity that is available in a purpose-built cell,” wrote Sapers in a letter dated April 20.

“The use of interview rooms and other non purpose-built space to accommodate women offenders (some of whom are mentally ill and/or suicidal) is unacceptable.”

And at Grand Valley last spring, prison authorities converted a private family-visit unit to a four-bedroom dorm, and retrofitted the gymnasium with as many as 40 cubicles.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said that double-bunking should be used for lower security inmates, and likely will be in place in additional units.

“I’m not adverse to double occupancy cells if the accommodations are appropriate for that,” he said.

The prison service plans on adding 144 beds to five women’s prisons across the country as part of a $30-million expansion plan.

The expansion focuses primarily on the Edmonton Institution for Women and Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., which are getting 44 beds each. The service is also considering other options for housing women, ranging from sending them to a new provincial jail in Manitoba to transfers into mental-health facilities.

The service is contemplating transferring women from crowded prisons in Ontario and Alberta to other women’s institutions across the country, from B.C. to Nova Scotia.

Read more:
http://esciencenews.com/articles/2011/10/13/women.prison.an.issue.blaming.individual.social.problems

The largest prison expansion since the 1930′s

The National Post

September 24th 2011

The Conservative government is in the midst of a procurement blitz to ramp up expansions at federal prisons across the country, just as it moves to pass a sweeping tough-on-crime bill that will inevitably send more people to prison and for longer.

Construction firms submitted bids for at least seven major building or renovation projects this month alone, worth at least $32-million and adding a known 576 beds to federal prisons in Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and Alberta over the next two years.

The price tag is modest and includes projects for which the cost was vaguely estimated or not listed at all. The most expensive project, at $12-million, is to restore four 100-cell blocks at the Cowansville Institution in Quebec.

Related

All the requests were published in July on the government’s electronic procurement system, after the Conservatives won a majority mandate and the power to pass legislation that will require additions to an already growing prison system.

From Prince Edward Island to British Columbia to Nunavut, Canada is undergoing a massive prison expansion. The federal government is adding 2,700 beds, and the provinces and territories have added or are adding a further 7,000, at an estimated cost of $4-billion. British Columbia has embarked on the most expensive building plan in its history.

“This is, to my knowledge, the largest expansion since the 1930s,” said Matthew Yeager, a penology expert and criminology professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. “This huge building campaign represents the Americanization of Canadian corrections.”

Imprisonment as we know it in Canada dates back to the pre-Confederation construction of the Kingston Penitentiary in 1835. Today, every jurisdiction is expanding its prisons — and has a pressing need to.

Federal and provincial prisons are resorting to double-bunking, even triple-bunking, to accommodate an increasing number of inmates. This is because more people are being held for longer on remand and because of two Conservative tough-on-crime bills, including the 2010 Truth in Sentencing Act, which eliminated two-for-one credit for time served in pre-trial custody.

The government’s latest crime bill, with its mandatory minimums and the end of house arrest for serious crimes, will add thousands more prisoners and cost untold billions.

Justin Piché, an assistant professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, who has been studying provincial and federal prison expansion for nearly three years, said this inevitably puts provinces and territories “back at square one.”

“If they’re already experiencing overcrowding, if they’re already rushing to build and expand new units, then I don’t think they’re in a good position to cope with the influx that will be caused by the new act,” he said.

The Safe Streets & Communities Act and the details of the federal government’s procurement spree come at a time when the national crime rate is at its lowest since 1973.

The Conservative government has not yet given a firm cost-projection for the bill tabled this week. Instead, it is touting a 2008 study that estimates the cost of crime is $99-billion annually, including $68-billion in “intangible costs” borne by victims.

However, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, has offered his own estimate, projecting the legislation will cost Ottawa $5-billion over five years and the provinces and territories somewhere between $6-billion and $10-billion.

The National Post analysis of tenders posted to the online procurement system showed Ottawa is also moving to add to its stock of community-based residential facilities, where offenders begin their reintegration.

This year alone, the federal government has awarded contracts or advance award notices for at least a dozen such facilities, at a cost of at least $9,585,000 and as much as $18,310,000. This month alone, it posted at minimum a dozen requests for services such as physiotherapy, psychiatry, pharmacy, optometry, and chaplaincy.

The level and pace of construction requests at federal institutions, where the cost of housing an inmate is $117,000 a year, appears unparalleled: While at least nine major projects closed to bidders in 2010, just three significant construction tenders appear to have closed in 2009 — one for a new locker and muster room for emergency responders, one for a hospital upgrade, and one for redeveloping land, including a garden and horseshoe court.

A spokeswoman for Correctional Service Canada said there are 36 construction projects under way. Lori Pothier said the growth plan was actually sparked by earlier legislation passed by the Conservative government.

“As soon as the Truth in Sentencing Act received royal assent and became law in February 2010, the Correctional Service of Canada began implementing a national plan to address anticipated increases in the federal offender population,” she said in an email.

Ms. Pothier said expansions at various sites were to be launched concurrently, “which has resulted in a number of construction tenders being posted on [the government’s procurement system] within what appears to be a relatively close period of time.”

Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said senior government officials have told her the earlier legislation has added more than 1,000 inmates to federal prisons since last spring.

“We demand more units, and we demand more spaces,” said Pierre Mallette, national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

“So if the government is going to go on a blitz to make those expansions, then it’s good news for us.”

The provinces and territories, which are responsible for offenders serving terms of less than two years, are in the midst of a blitz of their own. But Mr. Piché, who presented his findings to a government committee this spring, said most of the 39 provincial and territorial projects launched since 2008 were conceived without considering the impact of any federal legislation.

Corrections spokesmen in Alberta and British Columbia said the government’s tough-on-crime agenda had no impact on their prison expansion plans, announced in 2008 and 2006 respectively.

Greg Flood, a spokesman for Ontario’s Correctional Services Ministry, said in an email that while the province considered earlier Conservative crime bills, “the current federal anti-crime bill was not considered as part of our expansion plans.” The ministry will “assess the legislation and its impact on Ontario, should it be passed into law.”

Mr. Piché’s research shows that between 2008 and June this year, the provinces and territories have built or are building 22 new facilities and making 17 major additions. Those beds are needed.

The B.C. system has 1,692 cells, but contains 2,655 inmates, said to a ministry spokesman. In Saskatchewan, some facilities are twice as full as they should be.

In Alberta, triple-bunking “can occur,” Jason Maloney, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Safety &Solicitor General, said in an email. The province is building a new remand centre in Edmonton at a cost of $569-million.

“I don’t think anyone can predict, right now, what the impact of the new legislation will be,” said Don Morgan, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Justice. “I don’t think we’ll see anyone accurately predict that until six months or a year from now.”

He said Saskatchewan might ask Ottawa to help pay for future projects if the provincial facility houses federal inmates awaiting transfers. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said he wants compensation for any additional expenses, and the Nova Scotia government has signalled the same. The B.C. and Alberta ministries said it is too soon to know whether they will ask Ottawa to transfer money.

“Any time you spend billions of dollars to build American-style fortresses, you are making a statement about where you think we should be spending our correctional dollars,” Prof. Yeager said. “We’re putting all our marbles in the American model.”

Conrad Black’s experience in prison

September 11th 2011

Taken from an interview with Conrad Black in Macleans Magazine

[...]

Q: Tell me what it was like walking into prison for the first time.

A: Well, by the time it finally happened, my attitude was, “This has gone on so long and been so horrifying it can’t be worse than what’s happening now.” So to the extent that it is apparently survivable, I can start to develop a comfort level that I will in fact survive it and have a life after this appalling nightmare. And I had spoken with someone who had been in that particular facility, a low-security prison, who assured me there was no violence other than the occasional scuffles between people that didn’t amount to much and just occurred because individuals were ill-tempered, and that['s] it, while sometimes quite tedious, was eminently survivable.

Q: What does it mean to be processed?

A: You, first of all, have to take off all your clothes and you’re searched . . .

Q: Thoroughly searched.

A: Thorough search, yeah. Intrusively, I think is the usual description. Then you answer medical questions and a lot of other questions, and they give you a card with your number on it, they issue some sort of basic clothing, and then they tell you where you’re supposed to go to live and approximately how to get there.

Q: And you were never handcuffed at any time during this, were you? I don’t ever remember you being in those pictures that you see on TV.

A: No. I was handcuffed when there was a move—that proved to be mistaken—to move me to another location because they thought I was being called as a witness in a civil proceeding in which I was in fact the plaintiff . . . fortunately the judge’s order arrived before I had to get on the bus, but in the meantime you have that very elaborate form of having manacles on your feet—chains, you know—as well as being handcuffed.

Q: What’s that sensation like?

A: It’s interesting in that it is so restrictive and demeaning, you feel intensely vulnerable. I knew that they were making a mistake and—incompetent though the Bureau of Prisons often is—this would come to light and it wouldn’t go very far, so I could look at it in a more relaxed manner than I would if I thought I would have to travel across the country in that condition.

Q: I don’t want to suggest that the time at Coleman was leisurely, but you weren’t busting big rocks into little rocks. I was kind of surprised at how much free time you had.

A: I don’t think in federal prisons in the U.S. you have them out breaking stones, I think that may be state prisons. In a low-security federal prison, everybody is supposed to have a job. In my case, some people in the library, who were aware of the book on [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt that I had written, got the head of the education section to engage me as a tutor, and I had a very satisfying job there. I worked quite hard at it.

Q: And you write in the book about your enormous pride in some of the progress that your students made.

A: Enormous in the sense of pride in them, not in myself.

Q: Yes.

A: This is true. I mean, some of them were very surly and terribly under-educated in formal terms when we started. Once they could see that there was a purpose to it, and that it was a way of getting something useful out of this unpleasant experience, they applied themselves. It was very heartening to see how hard they worked, how people who had been told all their lives they couldn’t possibly succeed at anything were so excited—and justly excited—because it was a great achievement for them.

Q: On one occasion you speak about cleaning a shower stall, and you attracted a crowd. What was going on there?

A: Well, apparently I was slightly late leaving in the morning, so the counsellor said, “All right, well then you can’t leave for an hour,” which is when the next opportunity was, “and so in the meantime you go and work with the men in the shower room.” And so I cleaned the shower stall that I normally used, and I cleaned it very thoroughly. And I didn’t attract the audience in the sense of there was any great merit to how I did it—I mean, cleaning a shower stall is an important activity but not an especially stylish one—but the counsellor and some of his chums who were correctional officers thought it was so uproariously humorous that a man of my alleged means would be cleaning a shower stall that they turned it into a spectator sport. I must say it was all quite good-natured, it wasn’t nasty.

Q: And you gave them a good show?

A: No one disputed that the stall was clean!

Q: How sophisticated is the economy within the prison? I imagine, especially in the kind of facility that you were in, that there are some pretty cagey operators.

A: Extremely so. It’s very sophisticated in the sense that you have tremendously talented craftsmen. I mean, if there’s a problem with your eyeglasses, or a problem with your radio, there are people who can fix them. And it’s also sophisticated in the upper ranges of what you might want in terms of consumer value, because there is some degree of smuggling there, and because all inmates who receive visitors are strip-searched at the end of the visit, really none of the smuggling is through prisoners’ families or other visitors, it’s all through corrupted correctional officers. If you really wanted to, you could get a cellphone—which is forbidden. You could get a bottle of good whisky—which is forbidden. Now, I never touched any of that because I conducted my battle with the U.S. authorities and this unjust prosecution entirely through the courts, and the last thing in the world I wanted was any needless dispute with the officials of the Bureau of Prisons.

Q: What was the worst moment for you in prison?

A: The worst was when the Court of Appeal in Chicago so cavalierly treated our case. We had a very strong appeal, as was ultimately demonstrated by the Supreme Court of the United States, and the chairman of the appellant panel would not allow my counsel to finish a sentence. It was the most disgraceful thing I have seen in a court in a serious country. I didn’t actually see it, but I heard the audio and I read the transcript. And it reminded me—not to be tendentious here—but it reminded me of these news films of the Nazi People’s Court after the attempt on Hitler’s life in July of 1944, where Judge Freisler shouted at the prisoner. It was a fantastic spectacle in what is generally a distinguished jurisdiction in Chicago and it was obvious that we had no chance in that court.

Q: Through the whole of this process, Conrad, you had some friends who left you and some who stuck beside you. I’m just going to give you some names. Henry Kissinger.

A: I’ve had a great reconciliation with him. I’d been here in New York for four months, and he went to some lengths to see me, and I told him what my objections were to what he’d done, and he . . .

Q: He failed to defend you after having called you on several occasions an indispensable pillar of his existence, I think that was the phrase.

A: Pillar of my life, but he said that and wrote that a number of times. And in fairness, unknown to me he wrote that to the trial judge. I didn’t ask him to write a letter, and I did not know until years later that he did write a letter.

Q: So you say in the book that his failure to stand up for you was a wound that wouldn’t heal. That’s no longer the case?

A: No. In fact I altered the wording in the final version of the book. I did say the litmus test was if he thought I had committed crimes, and he said immediately, “I do not think you’ve committed crimes, and I never did.” And I said, “In that case I suggest that we put it all behind us and never speak of it again,” and that’s what’s happened. I see him quite often. I’m having dinner with him tomorrow.

Q: Elton John continued to be a great friend.

A: Magnificent, absolutely magnificent.

Q: David Radler was an associate for more than a quarter century, and then he turns on you and gives evidence against you. Surely you had to know what he was capable of.

A: So one would think, and I reproach myself for not having known. But I must say, in his defence, that for almost all of that time there was never the slightest sign that he was capable of either committing illegalities himself or inventing untruths to level against his associates as part of an activity to try and transfer blame from himself to others in order to get a reduced sentence for himself.

Q: Rupert Murdoch: do you still consider him the greatest media proprietor of all time, given his recent troubles?

A: Yes, but I’ve made it clear that my admiration for his talents as a media proprietor are not on either the standards that he has in presenting news or his own ethics. I was referring to his tremendous boldness in breaking the primitive print unions in Britain, and in breaking the triopoly of the three American television networks, and vertically integrating a film studio with a television network and then being a pioneer in satellite television. But he’s always been a tabloid man, he personally is a complete cynic. I’ve often said that his political philosophy is in that cartoon show that his company produces, The Simpsons. I mean, the people are idiots and all politicians are crooks, and that’s how Rupert sees the world.

Q: Have you changed as a result of all of this? What has changed about Conrad Black?

A: I’m not the best person to judge. It is fair to say very few people would go through as prolonged and arduous an experience as this without changing in some way, and I believe that I probably have. I hope that I have a greater recognition about the numbers and dire conditions of disadvantaged people even in a rich country like the United States. I’m of course much more aware of how imperfectly the justice system functions.

Q: Do you feel remorse about anything you yourself did?

A: Well, I feel remorse about anything I did that helped bring this upon me. I certainly feel no remorse at all about the honesty of what I did, because I didn’t do anything dishonest. I have remorse about any errors that I made that contributed to the vaporization of $2 billion of shareholders’ equity, 85 per cent in the hands of average people throughout the United States and Canada.

Q: Less than a year from now you will be a free man. What is the next act?

A: Well, one of the few positive results of this difficult time is that my career as a writer has flourished. I was fortunate to be in a prison where there was email access so I could file columns for the National Post, the National Review in the United States, and various publications in other countries. I often wrote book reviews, including of your book about William Randolph Hearst, and so I hope to go on with that.

Q: It’s a hard way to make a living.

A: I wasn’t suggesting I had to do it for a living, although I think I could get a fairly respectable income out of it, but in the terms you mean I think I shall return to being an investor. I don’t want to say this in a way that’s inappropriate, but I had some success in that field and I think it can be done in a way that’s completely private, totally unobtrusive, and will furnish quite a decent living.

Q: And do you expect to return to Canada? Do you want to return to Canada?

A: I want to divide my time between Canada and Great Britain, but I certainly would like to come to Canada if only as a temporary resident.

Q: When you were in prison, what was the one material thing you missed most?

A: Probably good food, but I have to emphasize that far above material things was the companionship of my wife. There is no substitute, in the middle of the night, for moving your knee and hitting a cinderblock wall instead of connecting with a person you’re happy to share the bed with. I don’t mean that in a prurient sense, it’s just something that one feels acutely.

Q: How is the food in prison?

A: It’s the lower end of institutional food. There are microwaves in the units and you can buy food from the commissary and put together something a little better in the microwaves, if you want to. What’s offered in the dining hall is certainly enough to keep body and soul together, but it’s not very tasty.

Q: Is that what you spent your stamps on?

A: No, we had—to use Lenin’s phrase—a division of labour: I would do some things for some of the inmates, and in return they would do some things for me, and there were better cooks in that place than I am.

Q: Conrad Black, thanks very much, and good luck with the rest of your journey.

A: Thank you so much, Ken.

Isolation doesn’t fit the crime

August 31st 2011

The Globe and Mail

Five men convicted of distinct al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plots have ended up isolated in a single wing within Canada’s most punishing prison – a fate they say they don’t deserve.

The complaints from the inmates arise as federal authorities struggle with how to jail radical Islamists – whether to isolate them, what programs to craft for them and how to achieve the correctional system’s stated goal of rehabilitation.

Government officials say they have good reason for keeping such inmates away from the general prison population, fearing they may radicalize others. But the policy does produce an ironic result: The convicted terror plotters associate mostly with one another.

The issue is not large in terms of numbers. The five prisoners represent the bulk of the terrorism convicts sent to penitentiaries since Canada passed the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2001.

Although convicted by different judges in far-flung courtrooms, each inmate has ended up in the Special Handling Unit (SHU), a facility outside of Montreal that’s described as Canada’s version of a U.S. supermax prison. Their sentences range from 18 years to life.

The SHU (pronounced “shoe”) is a wing of a federal penitentiary in St. Anne des Plaines, Que., that’s typically reserved for up to 90 of the country’s most violent inmates. Prisoners are jailed in two-metre-by-three-metre cells for about 22 hours daily, constantly observed by a battery of video cameras, and have relatively little access to exercise yards, educational programs and fellow human beings.

“This is savagery,” Shareef Abdelhaleem, a 35-year-old convicted bomb plotter, told The Globe and Mail in a telephone interview from the SHU, saying he was speaking for the other convicted terrorists. “We’re going to be here forever.”

Claiming to be a model inmate, the former computer programmer was sentenced to life and will be eligible to apply for parole in 2016. The harshest punishment that he and his cohorts in the SHU face, he said, is that they rarely get to be with anyone except for one another.

Visiting family members are only seen through transparent barriers in a prison interview room. “To take away the ability to touch our families and our children is going above and beyond,” said Mr. Abdelhaleem. “I have a mother with a single failing kidney and these [guards] tell me I can’t touch her.”

The official rationale for his SHU placement changes, he said. “The excuses have varied – ‘You’re high-risk’ or ‘We’re afraid if we put you in GP [general population] you might radicalize people.’ ”

Correctional Service of Canada officials would not speak about individual cases. But in an e-mail, they noted they have specific policies for terrorism cases. One directive states that within two weeks of sentencing, convicted terrorists deserving of maximum-security conditions ought to be considered for SHU placements, with periodic security reassessments.

The SHU is usually earmarked for violent prisoners – inmates who have a track record of hurting others, but who rotate back into less restrictive custody after serving a few months. There are some long-term SHU inmates: notorious killers such as biker Maurice (Mom) Boucher and child murderer Clifford Olson.

“Bad PR is not a good enough reason to send someone there,” Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator of Canada, said in an interview. A watchdog who monitors inmate complaints, Mr. Sapers said he is seeing no evidence that any class of prisoners is being sent to the SHU arbitrarily.

While he conceded that the SHU incorporates “the most significant curtailment of civil liberties allowed for by Canadian law,” he pointedly added that recruitment and radicalization in prison “are real concerns and shouldn’t be diminished.”

Mr. Abelhaleem was sent to the SHU after being sentenced earlier this year. He said he doesn’t want to radicalize anyone and that he has shown no inclination toward institutional violence. “Why am I in the SHU to begin with?” he said. “The FLQ weren’t in the SHU. As a matter of fact, they weren’t even in max.”

During his pretrial custody five years ago, he was kept segregated from his co-accused for fear they’d hatch new plots if left alone together. Now most of the people Mr. Abdelhaleem interacts with, apart from jail guards, are other men convicted of terrorist bomb plots.

“If the public is not sympathetic – I got life. I am going to die in prison,” he said, before glumly adding that “although I personally think for not killing anyone, for a conspiracy, it’s way too high.”

ON: Cops defend cuffing of 9-year-old

August 31st 2011

The Montreal Gazette

Police used handcuffs to restrain a 9-year-old mentally challenged boy who they say “became uncontrollable” at a Toronto daycare centre in July.

Autism Canada says the incident, which involved a boy with Asperger syndrome, highlights the need for federal guidelines to regulate how daycare facilities handle children with mental illness.

Toronto police Constable Victor Kwong said the boy, who in addition to Asperger syndrome, also has ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, became angry in the daycare’s lunchroom when other children were bullying him and calling him names.

“What teachers say is that he became uncontrollable,” Kwong said.

A daycare worker, concerned for the boy’s safety and that of the other children, called police after the boy barricaded himself in an empty classroom and started throwing around chairs, tables and paint.

Kwong said that when officers arrived on the scene, they asked the boy to lay down on the floor on his stomach, and put him in handcuffs. He said the boy was only in handcuffs for about five minutes, after which he calmed down and was chatting with police about his hobbies.

“When he left, he hugged the officers and the nurse,” said Kwong who stood by the officers’ decision to cuff the boy. “This worked. He listened.”

There are reports the boy’s mother is considering legal action.

Peter Frampton, the executive director of the Learning Enrichment Foundation which runs the daycare, said that although the staff is trained in “appropriate interventions,” the foundation doesn’t have enough workers to properly care for children on the extreme end of the autism spectrum.

He said those children should be in a smaller facility with at least one caregiver for every five children, rather than in a “standard childcare centre,” which, in accordance with the Day Nurseries Act of Ontario, has one childcare worker for every 15 children.

The problem, according to Frampton, is funding. He said there needs to be “appropriate budgets in place to support delivery of these services to the people who need it.”

Frampton said the July incident was the first time the daycare has asked police to intervene.

Laurie Mawlam, a spokeswoman for Autism Canada, said the shortages are countrywide. “If they had more money, there would always be staff around to help,” she said.

Mawlam said autism and Asperger syndrome differ because autism is a threefold syndrome that includes language problems, social difficulties and repetitive behaviour, whereas Asperger syndrome is a social disorder. She said children with Asperger syndrome are “a little odd” and “often have trouble making friends.”

“I think of that poor kid . it’s probably not the first time he’s been bullied,” she said. “No wonder he was ready to blow.”

ON: Accused sex-offender killed in custody

August 20th 2011

A prisoner who died after suffering serious injuries at the Niagara Detention Centre was a Port Colborne man facing sex charges, The Standard has learned.

A family member, neighbours and a co-worker confirmed Kelvin Sawa, 46, suffered injuries while behind bars and died Thursday.

Sawa was charged earlier this month with one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference. According to published reports, Sawa was charged after police investigated a report of a sexual assault involving a 14-year-old male.

Sawa was scheduled to make a court appearance by video in St. Catharines court Friday.

Niagara Regional Police have not released the man’s name. They said they were notified of his death Thursday by medical staff at the Niagara Health System.

How the man was injured and the circumstances surrounding his death are under investigation by the major crime unit, said Staff Sgt. James Prinsen.

“The reason we’re not releasing it (the name) is because we’re still trying to determine whether a criminal act is what caused the death,” Prinsen said.

Police aren’t saying much about the man at this point. Prinsen wouldn’t disclose what injuries the inmate suffered Monday or what charges he was facing.

He said the focus of the investigation is determining how the man was hurt.

“We’re conducting witness interviews and we’re reviewing surveillance video from the institution,” he said.

A post mortem is scheduled for Friday at a Hamilton hospital.

“Hopefully, that will help us determine the cause of death,” Prinsen said.

He said the man was arrested earlier this month and was in jail awaiting trial on charges.

Meanwhile, one relative named Kelly, who didn’t want to give her last name, said Sawa was her uncle. She said she believes he never should have been in jail in the first place and that he was innocent of the charges.

“I’m just so upset,” she said. “This has happened for no reason.”

Kelly said she thinks her uncle was murdered.

“It’s really a grieving time for the family,” she said.

Michael Harms, who worked with Sawa for more than five years, said everyone knew the cab driver.

He said numerous residents in Port Colborne, where he lived on King St., were aware of Sawa’s death.

“This whole thing is just unbelievable,” he said.

A neighbour, who didn’t wish to be identified, said the King St. people in the area where Sawa lived were talking about his death Thursday.

“Anybody who lives in the neighbourhood knows him,” she said, noting he could often be seen sitting on his porch smoking cigarettes.

Greg Flood, a spokesman with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, confirmed the man rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries Monday has died.

“We take these matters very seriously,” he said, adding an internal investigation will be conducted.

He said that while police originally reported the man was injured while in the segregation ward, that is not the case.

However, he wouldn’t say where in the facility the prisoner was when the injuries occurred.

“For security reasons, we don’t talk about the location of inmates,” he said.

Prinsen said there might be a misunderstanding about what the area of the facility is called.

“It was an area where a number of inmates were housed,” he said. “My understanding from my investigators is that it was segregation.”

Dr. Jack Stanborough, the supervising regional coroner, said his office investigates any death that happens in custody.

He said if the cause and manner of death are determined to involve a crime, a mandatory inquest will be called.

If a death was the result of an accident, natural causes or is listed as undetermined, he said, an inquest is at the coroner’s discretion.

Stanborough said as part of the investigation, an autopsy and toxicology testing will be done as well as an examination of the scene.

“Any death we approach, we always consider criminality,” he said, noting it’s important to “keep an open mind.

“Once we have all the pieces of the puzzle, we let them fall into place.”

MB: Cons kill cops in 3-D

August 19th 2011

WINNIPEG – The union for Winnipeg police officers says it’s “absolutely disgusting” a video game viewed by many as glorifying violence, crime and cop-killing was once played by prisoners at a Manitoba jail.

Grand Theft Auto was, at one time, among the selection of video games available to inmates at Headingley Correctional Centre.

“In 2008, that particular game was discovered here and it was pulled that very day,” Greg Skelly, the facility’s superintendent, said in an interview Friday.

“Our staff would have made an error in purchasing it. Our inmates obviously aren’t going to the store and buying these games.”

Skelly did not have specifics about how long Grand Theft Auto was available, although he said “I don’t think it was very long.”

While he’s glad to hear jail staff acted fast once someone noticed the game in the collection, Winnipeg Police Association president Mike Sutherland wonders why it was purchased at all.

“I’m alarmed that it happened in the first place… Certainly it’s a mistake, but I look at it from a common-sense perspective, and it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The local head of a taxpayer watchdog group agrees, noting the game’s title doesn’t leave much to the imagination.

“It’s pretty shocking. You’d think the name Grand Theft Auto sums it up pretty well,” said Colin Craig, Prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“It’s pretty disappointing that this would be in a provincial jail, a game featuring shooting police and innocent people.”

Craig recently blasted Headingley jail after an ex-guard slipped a brown envelope exposing details about inmates accessing video games, among other perks, including big-screen TVs.

“I don’t think anyone minds if inmates have a deck of playing cards or magazines after a hard day of cleaning up a park — not high-end video games,” he said.

Since the Grand Theft Auto incident, Skelly said the institution has changed its policies on purchasing video games.

At one point, it was left up to staff to decide which games could be bought. Now, all games must be reviewed by the chief of security. Game must be rated “E” for everyone or “T” for teens, and most of the games are sports-themed, Skelly said.

ON: New jail construction begins

The Windsor Star

August 13th 2011

The official start of construction Friday for the new $247-million regional jail means the cramped, deplorable conditions at the old Windsor Jail will be history by 2014.

That date can’t come too soon for the 115 correctional officers who work the 86-year old jail that’s cramped when at capacity of 138, and even near intolerable on weekends when the jail population can swell beyond 200.

“The conditions are horrible,” for both the inmates and the staff watching them, said Renzo Anzolin, a corrections officer for 22 years. “It’s just a bad place.”

More than a dozen corrections officers were present at Friday’s groundbreaking at the new site on the Eighth Concession, just north of Highway 401.

Instead of the cramped quarters with poor ventilation and no air conditioning at Brock and Peter streets, this place will have about 200,000 square feet of space on a 30-acre property. Capacity will be 315, and the staffing will rise to between 250 and 300, as the maximum security South West Detention Centre consolidates Windsor’s and Sarnia’s current jails. The savings realized by closing Sarnia is estimated at $2 million a year. The net increase in employment in Windsor is expected to be about 100.

“The existing jail is obviously out of date, antiquated, it’s a health and safety hazard for the men and women who work for us in that facility,” Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan (L – Windsor-Tecumseh) told reporters after the ceremony.

“So it’s a very good and exciting day for Windsor-Essex.”

The consolidation will save the Ontario government an enormous amount of money wasted operating inefficient jails, and the construction will create 150 local jobs, Duncan said. The $247-million price tag is based on the cost of building and then maintaining the centre for 30 years.

“This project will have a positive economic benefit for Windsor and Essex County,” he said.

When the site for the new jail was announced, there was a surge of opposition from people living in the rural area between the 401 and Windsor Airport. But Duncan said the government has gone to “extraordinary lengths to accommodate the community.”

From the road, the centre will look more like a park than a prison, with a soccer field and cricket pitch taking up a good quarter of the property on the front lawn. The fields will be available for public use and maintained by the city’s parks department.

David Hanna, a member of the community liaison committee that worked with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services on the project’s design, said neighbours initially opposed the project, concerned about a big jail moving into this quiet rural pocket.

“But it’s happening and we’re just trying to get a better project,” he said, explaining how the committee is still pushing for more extras, such as public art and connections to the trail system in the area.

Though it’s mostly agricultural now, the area around the new jail is slated for residential development as the city grows, said Hanna, so the committee is thinking of the future as it pushes for these public components.

The centre is supposed to be finished by the fall of 2013, with inmates moving in the following year.

“Right now, I see only positives with this facility,” Windsor police Chief Gary Smith said. His only initial concern centred around the increased cost of transporting prisoners between police headquarters, the detention centre and court. But new features at the centre, such as increased use of audio-visual equipment for in-jail court remands, should hopefully offset those costs, he said.

Corrections officials said they can’t go into detail about the security features of the new property. What comes as a relief to officers are the features inside, such as more segregation areas.

In the old jail, there are so few that they’re rarely available to use to discipline an inmate.

Also, the people in jail due to mental health problems don’t get the attention they need. In the new detention centre, there will be a special area for them.

“This facility is going to cover all of our bases,” said Anzolin, “as far as special needs, bad behaviour.”

Facebook to boot prison inmate accounts from site

August 11th 2011

LOS ANGELES – Facebook has begun closing the accounts of California prison inmates after a convicted child molester viewed the pages of his victim from behind bars, authorities and the social networking site said Tuesday.

Facebook has shut down the accounts of at least two prisoners and officials are working on identifying other accounts that had been accessed from behind bars, said the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Though most prisoners in California do not have access to the Internet, they often log onto the Internet with contraband cell phones, despite an effort to crack down on the devices, corrections officials said.

California corrections officials, who formally announced the partnership with Facebook on Monday, said they have received hundreds of complaints from victims who were contacted by prison inmates behind bars.

They include the convicted child molester, who prison officials said viewed the Facebook and MySpace pages of his victim, then mailed her family some drawings of the girl, officials said.

The victim was 10 years-old when she was molested and 17 when she was contacted by the offender, who had used the Web to learn how she wore her hair and her brand of clothes.

“Really, they’re just limited by their imagination, you’ve got high ranking gang members shot-calling, ordering crimes to be committed on their behalf,” California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dana Toyama told Reuters.

Palo Alto, California-based Facebook lets inmates use the website if they are located in a state that allows them to access the Internet.

But since California prohibits inmates from using the Web, the company confirmed that it is working with state officials to remove them from Facebook.

The policy will not apply to inmates who created an account before they were sentenced and have not used it while incarcerated.

Facebook’s policies prohibit an individual other than the registered user from updating a Facebook account, which happens occasionally when an inmate asks a friend or family member to access their page.

“We will disable accounts reported to us that are violating relevant U.S. laws or regulations, or inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement.

California has seen the number of contraband cell phones taken from inmates jump from 261 in 2006 to 10,760 last year, which shows the problem is increasing. “We’re on track to way surpass last year’s numbers,” Toyama said…

PJD: A Day of Remembrance and Resistance

August 9th 2011

It’s that time of year, when inmates across Canada stop eating, stop working and think of damaged souls like Eddie Nalon.

Thirty-seven years ago Wednesday, Nalon died in a segregation unit at Kingston’s Millhaven penitentiary after slashing his arm in apparent frustration.

He had been kept in the dark for two days about whether a prison committee had approved his transfer out of “the hole.”

On the first anniversary of Nalon’s death — and every Aug. 10 since — inmates have taken part in Prison Justice Day, a low-key day of inaction to honour the lives of those who have died behind bars.

Organizers of the first peaceful protest back in 1975 hoped the day would also bring change to the system, but in some ways not much has happened, contends Paul Copeland, a lawyer who represented inmates at the coroner’s inquest into Nalon’s death.

Take Ashley Smith, the teenager who hanged herself in a segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener in 2007. As with Nalon, 40, Smith’s suicide can be traced back to the insensitivity of prison staff, Copeland alleges.

“Eddie Nalon took his life because the authorities at Millhaven were too insensitive to bother telling him . . . that the segregation review board had ruled he should be released from segregation,” he said. “Eddie was aware of what day of the week the board met and when he did not hear the result of their meeting, he gave up hope.”

Likewise, Smith died “because the authorities were insensitive to the needs of a disturbed young woman,” Copeland alleges, “a woman whose mental troubles had been amplified by how she was treated by the prison authorities.”

In Toronto, ex-offenders and those who work with inmates have organized a day of panel discussions and prisoner art displays at Holy Trinity Church next to the Eaton Centre.

New this year will be representatives of mental health agencies who work with paroled inmates when they return to the community.

“This isn’t hug-a-thug,” said Garry Glowacki, 61, an ex-offender who runs a prison ministry. “This is about preventing them from reoffending.”

Prisoners prepare to mark Prisoner’s Justice Day

August 7th 2011

KINGSTON — Prisoners’ Justice Day is an annual day of memorial and protest when inmates refuse to work or eat in order to show solidarity with their “brethren” who have died behind bars.

It may not mean anything to most Canadians, but for John — an inmate at Kingston’s Joyceville Institution — it’s a day that weighs heavy on his heart.

“I’ve known hundreds of people who have died either on the inside or as a result of being inside,” said John, who asked to be identified his first name only. “The majority have overdosed on opiates and one of the reasons they’re taking opiates is to try and deal with pain and suffering.”

The first Prisoners’ Justice Day was marked at Millhaven Institution near Kingston on Aug. 10, 1975, a year after inmate Edward Nolan committed suicide after spending two months in “the hole.”

The memorial has since grown to honour all inmates who die of unnatural causes behind bars.

It is celebrated worldwide, but last year’s protest at Joyceville in Kingston shows how easily a misunderstanding can derail the meaning of the event.

On Aug. 10, 2010, John and 200 other prisoners donned T-shirts depicting an upside down maple leaf behind bars.

John said a guard at the medium-security federal prison found the T-shirts offensive and told the union rep, who took the story to the press and, once the story hit newsstands, there was a public outcry.

Angry citizens said allowing prisoners to sport T-shirts desecrating such an important Canadian symbol was an insult.

The inmates’ committee who designed the T-shirts explained that flying one’s national flag upside down is an international sign of distress, and that they used the symbol to demonstrate the hopelessness inmates feel.

However, despite the fact that the T-shirts had been pre-approved by an internal committee reaching all the way up to the warden, the prisoners were asked to return the shirts — for which they had paid $13 — immediately, to avoid punishment.

“It’s censorship and as such it’s a violation of our charter rights to freedom of speech,” John said during a telephone interview.

“We weren’t abusing the symbol in our own eyes and we weren’t trying to stir up any hatred or discrimination. It was just an abuse of their power.”

Correctional Services Canada disagrees. “For us,” said spokeswoman Jacqueline Edwards, “the fact that the national symbol was displayed that way was done in a disrespectful manner.”

She said she was not aware that the upside-down symbol was a sign of distress.

“This kind of thing happens inside (prisons) all the time,” said Joan Ruzsa from Rittenhouse, a Toronto-based inmate advocacy group. “The prisoners went through the proper channels to have the T-shirt design approved . . . as soon as people got angry, (the administration) threw the prisoners under the bus.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews called the protest “offensive and unacceptable,” and demanded that the CSC prevent anything like this from happening again.

Justin Piche, a doctoral candidate at Carleton University in Ottawa, says Toews’ comments show he is “missing the point.”

“If he’s trying to deny that prisons perpetrate victimization, then he’s not considering the broader harms of incarceration,” said Piche.

“Prisons are places that kill people,” said Piche, a sociologist who specializes in the prison system.

“Prison should be a place where people could be given the resources to heal and to come out as better people, better balanced and better able to contribute to society,” said John. “And instead, what we’re promoting now is a system that robs them of their humanity and strips them of their dignity and abuses them at every level and in every way of being.”

In the decade between 1998 and 2008, 532 offenders died in federal custody from a range of known causes, including natural death, suicide, accident and homicide.

Of those inmates, 107 committed suicide and 36 died at the hands of another inmate.

According to a 2010 report for the CSC by Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers, the suicide rate among federal offenders is about 84 per 100,000, which is significantly higher than Canada’s 2004 rate of 11.3 suicides per 100,000 people.

In 2007, the homicide rate for incarcerated federal offenders was approximately 28 per 100,000, compared to the national homicide rate of 1.8 per 100,000.

John — who has been in prison for 26 years — worries that the prison system is relying more on segregation and aggression, and less on activities that foster creativity and healing.

Since some maximum-security inmates came to Joyceville in April, John said the administration has taken away all the activities on which he and his peers rely to keep sane.

“All those things that give people an outlet for their creative aspects of self — like gardening, hobbycraft and group activities — are being removed, so that at the same that you create a more tense environment, you’re reducing and removing elements of the social life that would moderate that tension.”

The vegetable garden, which John had been tending for five years, was mown down a few weeks ago, with no warning from guards. “I was incredibly sad,” he said.

John, who heads an inmates’ rights group, organizes social events, health fairs and barbecues, and tutors other inmates learning to read and write, said he has found positive ways to deal with being in prison.

“But for some people, to cause that much emotion in them is to make them flip out,” said the 56-year-old former funeral director.

He said closing off creative outlets is counter-intuitive. “They’re trying to exert control, but what they’re doing is actually making people feel even more out-of-control.”

“If you push the system in the way that it wants to go, you’ll end up with a guy in a concrete box 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And when you open that box, you never know which Jack is going to jump out.”

John called the prison system “a fraud committed on the public.”

“It doesn’t make the public any safer. It in fact endangers them, because you can’t abuse somebody every day, year in and year out, and expect them to come out of prison in a beneficial, co-operative, harmonious way.”

Ruzsa said the T-shirt debacle shows how little the prison system respects basic human rights: “Somehow if you’re in prison, you’re not allowed to express an opinion.”

She said at Bath Institution, about 20 kilometres west of Kingston, “this year’s potential T-shirt design, to honour people who had died inside, was rejected because it had skulls and gravestones on it.”

John said he has to laugh at the irony of the situation. “The prisoners who started Prisoners’ Justice Day would be flipping in their graves over going to ‘the man’ and asking the system to approve a T-shirt design whose sole purpose is to recognize the abuses of the system.”

John said the inmates’ committee at Joyceville is working on a new design for this year’s T-shirts, but he isn’t sure the approval process will go through in time.

Regardless, he says he’ll be wearing a homemade shirt that may raise eyebrows.

“I fully intend to have an upside-down maple leaf on my shirt this year.”

NB: New jails near completion

Canadaeast News Services

August 5th 2011

MONCTON – With construction on two New Brunswick jails nearing completion, where will the inmates go when the facilities open?

The province’s inmates will no longer play musical chairs, as everyone will finally have a facility suited to handle them.

The Dalhousie jail and Moncton’s detention centre will be closed and replaced by a new jail in Dalhousie and a centre in Shediac when they’re ready.

The future of the closing facilities is up in the air. The province’s Department of Supply and Services is in charge of the buildings’ future, but department officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

Ben Champoux, the director of community business development for the City of Moncton, said the site of Moncton’s detention centre is a prime piece of real estate.

The city entered into talks with the province in April about acquiring the land, with an eye toward developing it.

“There’s no doubt that we want to see more density, more connectivity in the downtown,” Champoux said.

“And with the courthouse now and the extension of the Blue Cross building, it’s also right across the street from the old fire station, and that’s something the city would like to redevelop, so this is squeezed right in the middle – all of that combined, we view it as an important piece of real estate in the downtown.”

Heather Harrison, the director of institutional services with the Department of Public Safety, said the old Dalhousie jail has been around a long time and a number of options could be explored.

She said the new jails will help New Brunswick a lot.

“When the reorganization is finished, there will be four regional centres in all four corners of our province. Everyone will be covered,” Harrison said.

Harrison said the old jails were no longer up to the task.

“The Dalhousie prison was built in the 1890s. It’s smaller and older, and we want to modernize it and increase the capacity. It will go from a capacity of 30 to a capacity of 100,” said Harrison.

“The Moncton Detention Centre was an old police station. In the 1970s, it was repurposed, but it will be replaced with the modernized facility in Shediac. That can hold 180,” she said.

The jail in Bathurst will close, leaving those prisoners to go to Dalhousie. Also, adult males in the youth detention centre in Miramichi will be moved out to jails across the province, and women will be moved in but will be kept separate from the youths.

Harrison said the new jails will help address the prisoner overcrowding plaguing the province.

“We’ve been over capacity in the province for a number of years. We’ve been about 100-plus over it every day. So we have added additional capacity for the province,” said Harrison.

The facilities will come with a combined price tag of $56 million, but Harrison said it’s a small price to pay for good infrastructure.

“We’re building to silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, and we’re on schedule for both projects. We are dealing with environmental concerns and will abide by the industry standard as New Brunswick Green Building Program,” she said.

“This will result in adding jobs and providing safe and secure facilities. We’re constantly looking at how to provide the best services with the resources we have.”

Shediac Mayor Raymond Cormier is pleased the top-of-the-line correctional facility is coming to town.

“We’ll take in the offenders of our district. We’ll have the same system as there was in Moncton. The max time left to serve for people in will be 30-40 days,” said Cormier.

“People reacted positively when this was announced. They’ve been doing the same thing in Moncton for 30 years, and they’ve had no issues. And I don’t think we will either.

“The prison will give us $500,000 in taxes. It will allow us to compensate industries, and it involves jobs. It’s a catalyst for the city.”

And as the financially unstable town of Dalhousie awaits the new facility, Mayor Clem Tremblay said he sees it as a major financial boost.

“We all know the state of Dalhousie. This new facility will bring some money to the town,” said Tremblay.

“At one point, that jail was prime for Restigouche. But over the years, that vanished. Inmates are around freely, and there’s more than individual cells … It can bring job opportunities, and 50-70 jobs. That’s tremendous for Dalhousie.”

But before the jail opens, Tremblay has a lot of work to do for the town.

“I understand we’ll be open mid-November. Plans before that are to hire, get in and move inmates to the new facility,” he said.

“I’m just anxious for the official opening.”

The Dalhousie facility is set to open Nov. 1, with Shediac slated to open Dec. 1.

BC: Prison snitch serves hard time

August 4th 2011

A Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre (KRCC) inmate who turned three other prisoners who beat him up over to the RCMP has made himself such a jailhouse pariah he can never return to a life of crime, a lawyer told a judge Tuesday.

Lawyer Don Campbell said his client Kurtis Sundman, 25, did something few inmates ever do — report a crime in prison to the police.

Sundman was being held on bail on charges he confined and beat a Merritt man this past February. Sundman pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court to those charges Tuesday and was jailed 12 more months, on top of the time he has already served.

Shortly after he arrived at the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, Sundman was jumped and beaten by three other inmates, Campbell told the court.

Instead of dealing with the matter internally, however, Sundman made a complaint to the RCMP and the three men were charged criminally, something that seriously violates the “con code,” the internal jailhouse code of conduct.

He has been a target ever since, the judge was told.

“He’s been attacked in the shower a number of times,” said Campbell. “He’s been punched and kicked every day he was in a general unit. He’s been choked unconscious. He was sexually assaulted.”

Sundman has even been moved to different prisons with fake names but each time he arrives, inmates are ready to receive him. In the end, prison officials moved Sundman to a special handling unit where he has lived in complete isolation for 23 hours a day.

“He lives there, that is his home,” said Campbell. “He understands that is what his reality is.”

The long-term impact of Sundman’s actions will have the curious effect of making sure he never commits another crime, the court was told.

His reputation in prison now is so widespread, he will always be a target in jail. As a result, when he gets out, Sundman plans to live the strict straight and narrow, in order to keep from ever going back to jail.

“He has achieved a level of infamy such that he does not have the freedom to return to any kind of (criminal) life,” Campbell said.

Ironically, it was a “rat,” to borrow a term from prison culture, that put Sundman in trouble in the first place.

Sundman’s co-accused Joe Gardiner, 22, gave police a lengthy statement in February detailing how he and Sundman dragged Harley Drynock into a Merritt home and beat him for information about who had stolen some marijuana from them earlier in the day.

It was anticipated that Gardiner, who pleaded guilty himself earlier this year and was handed an 18-month conditional sentence, would have been one of the Crown’s best witnesses against Sundman had the case gone to trial.

Sundman pleaded guilty on the day his trial was supposed to start.

It’s not known where in the provincial prison system the apparently marked man will serve his sentence.

Ottawa building mega prisons

Postmedia News

August 2nd 2011

The Correctional Service of Canada will build maximum security cellblocks inside medium-security prisons in Ontario and Manitoba, a move some observers say is a government scheme to create super-prisons while avoiding public scrutiny.

“They tell you they’re not going to build a super regional complex, but it’s already here; it’s going to happen,” said Jason Godin, Ontario president of the union that represents correctional officers. “They wanted to appease the critics.”

A 2007 report for the Harper government, led by former Ontario Conservative corrections minister Rob Sampson, established a blueprint to overhaul the federal system, including the proposal to build megaprisons, which would house more than 2,000 inmates at all security levels at one site.

In the face of criticism of the idea, the Harper government has consistently denied it has any plans to build mega-prisons. “By taking this approach, they’re essentially doing what appears to be a compromise regional complex setup without having to ask the community whether or not they want these kind of multi-security level institutions,” said Prof. Justin Piche, a sociologist at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador who studies prison expansion.

Piche said adding units to an existing complex bypasses the local consultation process.

The correctional service is in the midst of a $1.7-billion building boom to accommodate a prison population ballooning because of law-and-order legislation that includes mandatory minimum sentences for more crimes and the cancellation of extra credit for time spent awaiting trial.

The prison population is expected to swell more than 30% in the next three to four years.

More than 2,500 new cells will be built at existing prisonss. The correctional service had not revealed its plans for maximumsecurity units inside existing medium-security prisons until bids were recently sought for construction at Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, and Stony Mountain Institution near Winnipeg.

Both prisons are located on large properties that feature an adjoining minimum-security prison where a farm operated by inmates, two of six such operations, was shuttered last year.

National prison ombudsman Howard Sapers, who has access to internal Correctional Service of Canada plans and documents, said he was unaware of the intent to put maximum-security units inside medium-security prisons.

“This raises significant policy and operational issues,” Sapers said.

“The service will have to ensure that the legal requirement to always utilize the least restrictive measure necessary.”

Hunger strike expands to 11 Calif. Prisons

July 6th 2011

CRESCENT CITY, Calif., July 6 (UPI) — Inmates in a third of California’s 33 prisons are on a hunger strike to show support for maximum security inmates refusing food in one facility, officials said.

Inmates in the special maximum security unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City began refusing to eat last Friday to protest conditions they contend are cruel and inhumane, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

“There are inmates in at least a third of our prisons who are refusing state-issued meals,” said Terry Thornton, a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman.

Thornton said the number of declared strikers at Pelican Bay — reported Saturday as less than two dozen — and at other penal facilities fluctuates daily.

Thornton said some inmates refuse all meals while other reject only some; and some inmates ate in visitation areas, refusing to eat state-issued meals in their cells.

The strike was organized by Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit inmates protesting the unit’s extreme isolation, the Times said. The inmates are also asking for better food, warmer clothing and one phone call a month

The Security Housing Unit compound, which has 1,100 inmates, is designed to isolate prison gang members or inmates who’ve committed crimes while incarcerated. Inmates spend 22 1/2 hours a day in windowless, soundproof cells.

Prisoner advocates have complained incarceration in the unit is tantamount to torture, often leading to mental illness because many inmates spend years in the lockup, the Times said.

While the number of declared hunger strikers was thought to be less than two dozen during the weekend, more than 400 prisoners at Pelican Bay are believed to be refusing meals, Molly Poizig, a spokeswoman for the group Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, told the Times.

Poizig said the organization gets updates from lawyers and family members visiting inmates.

Prisoner’s of the world, unite!

July 4th 2011 [ed: original title, no word of a lie]

MACLEANS Magazine

In January 2010, a 50-something inmate serving a life sentence at Mountain Institution, a medium-security prison in Agassiz, British Columbia, polled his fellow prisoners to see if they were in favour of starting a labour union. Over 76 per cent of the inmates said yes. By March, he and a core group of 14 inmates at Mountain had drafted a constitution for the union and have been working towards certification ever since. If the inmates are successful, the union will be the first of its kind in the country.

It’s not surprising the movement is happening at Mountain, given its unique status as a work-focused prison where inmates must have steady jobs. As of 2007, there were 449 inmates at Mountain–the majority of whom work in one of four industries: textiles, manufacturing, construction, and prison services, such as printing and laundry. They’ve only recently met their first hurdle: getting 51 per cent of the prisoners to sign up. This is usually a routine affair, but represents a problem inside a prison, where inmates have been denied the right to assemble.

In a press release, the prisoners said their proposed union would raise issues that “plague the prison population as a workforce,” including workplace safety, access to vocational training, and pay, which hasn’t been adjusted to inflation since 1986. The union tactic comes in response to a dysfunctional inmate grievance system that is overloaded, understaffed, and inefficient. According to the Correctional Investigator’s office the volume of complaints has grown from around 20,000 in 2005-06 to over 28,000 in 2009-2010

A 2010 review of the complaints and grievance process by David Mullan, a constitutional lawyer and professor emeritus at Queen’s University, found “serious problems” with the current system. A routine grievance can take over 150 days from its initial filing to be resolved, in part because of improperly trained staff. (Mullan says staff do “little more than [process] paper.”) And the system is tied up by “frequent users”–serial grievers, determined to bog down the process. In 2008-09, Mullan found that in some institutions, just a dozen offenders accounted for 11.3 per cent of all submissions.

Canada’s prisoners’ rights movement dates back to the 70s, when a series of brutal uprisings and violent deaths spurred an overhaul of prison legislation, including extending the vote behind prison walls. Since then, a series of legal reforms that have guaranteed rights to prisoners, notably the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 and the adoption of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992, which includes the inmate grievance policy. In many respects, Canada’s commitment to prisoner’s rights is admirable.

But just because something is written, doesn’t mean it’s enforced, cautions Allan Manson, a criminal law professor at Queen’s University. “The problem,” says Manson, “is enforcing compliance with the act and that continues to be a problem today.” There are statutory standards, he says, “but prisoners have to be able to force compliance. And given the obstacles to judicial remedies and cost of litigation, there hasn’t been a crucial mass of judicial scrutiny that will keep penitentiary officials in line.”

The Correctional Service of Canada wouldn’t speculate on the impact a union might have on the federal prison system and pointed out that inmates already have a say in their treatment. “Each institution has an inmate committee which is formed to allow inmates to identify issues, including work-related issues, affecting them and to raise them with wardens and institutional staff,” CSC spokesperson Jean-Paul Lorieau wrote in an email to Maclean’s. “So far no union has been formed, and we do not have any further comments on this issue.”

In the meantime, Mountain inmates and Natalie Dunbar, a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer who’s been serving as a liaison between the prison and the outside world, continue to organize. While the process is slow, Dunbar is optimistic. She says a prisoners’ union could “change the dynamic” between guards and prisoners for the better. “Prison staff are unionized and they have issues they have to deal with and believe it or not some of the issues intersect with prisoners issues.” Ideally, Dunbar says prison labour unions will propagate across the country: “Mountain would be local 001 and hopefully Kent would be unionized, then places throughout BC and then Canada.” Though, until then, “it’s baby steps,” she says. “We just want to get the application in at Mountain.”

ON: Tories promise forced labour in jails

May 26th 2011

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Ontario could be the first province in Canada to force inmates to earn their keep by picking up garbage along highways and clean graffiti from city walls if the Progressive Conservatives take the reins of power.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak is making a bold play for votes ahead of the Oct. 6 election by vowing to make thousands of provincial inmates work for their perks if he becomes Ontario’s next premier.

In what’s being billed as a Canadian first, inmates in Ontario prisons would be forced to perform 40 hours of manual labour a week — such as raking leaves and cutting grass — to earn rewards like coffee and gym time, he said.

“Prisoners can watch TV, they can play cards, they can play poker at the same time we do — after a good day’s work,” Hudak said.

The Tories, who’ve eclipsed the ruling Liberals in public opinion polls, said they would spend $20 million to put inmates to work outside prison walls.

Ontario prisons currently house 8,488 inmates. According to the government, 5,353 are awaiting trial, while 2,889 are serving less than two years for offences such as break and enter, assault and drug trafficking. The rest are serving federal or intermittent sentences, or are under hold orders.

Hudak said only those who are “found guilty and are serving in our correctional institutions” would be put to work.

His pledge harks back to former premier Mike Harris’ “workfare” program, which forced able-bodied people on welfare to work for their benefits. It was among the main planks of his controversial Common Sense Revolution platform that propelled the Tories to power 16 years ago.

Hudak is trying to tap into the same vein of taxpayer outrage, accusing the Liberals of lavishing criminals with yoga lessons, cooking classes, writing workshops and premium cable TV channels — all on the public dime.

“By putting criminals to work, the taxpayers dollars that used to be spent for that work would be spent on law-abiding citizens and benefits that matter to all of us, like health care,” he said. “I’m not asking prisoners to anything more than what hard-working Ontario families do each and every day — and that is, go to work.”

Hudak said he has no plans to have prisoners manacled while they’re doing their tasks, but security details will have to be worked out with correctional service officials and superintendents.

The Liberals condemned Hudak’s “reckless” plan, warning it would put thousands of dangerous criminals — including drug dealers and sexual predators — in parks and neighbourhoods with children and families.

Criminals need to be behind “high walls and steel bars” to keep the public safe, said Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Jim Bradley.

“They cannot be in out in our neighbourhoods with our kids,” he said.

But not all Liberals share those concerns. Jim Brownell, who represents the eastern Ontario riding of Stormont-Dundas-South-Glengarry, is giving Hudak’s plan a thumb’s up.

“I’ve always believed that folks in Ontario should be — if they’re able bodied and well enough to do work — should be out working and contributing to their communities,” he told Cornwall radio station CJSS.

“I think it’s very positive.”

Brownell said he’s seen chain gangs working in the United States while heading on vacation to Florida. But he questioned whether it would be appropriate in Ontario to visibly label prisoners working in the community.

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the federal government all have work programs for prisoners — but they’re all voluntary, the Tories said. Some pay the inmates for the work they do while other programs help prisoners earn early release.

Manitoba has been using prisoners to help sandbag during the floods, while B.C. inmates help with prison laundry, cleaning and kitchen duties.

Voluntary federal work programs for inmates generate about $70 million a year, according to the Tories.

Party officials say they’d aim to make the program revenue-neutral by having the inmates do work the province usually pays for, or solicit contracts from municipalities and other groups. It doesn’t require new legislation, as the province already has the power to force prisoners to work.

Critics say the move will kill jobs by replacing workers with unpaid prison labour, but Hudak insists there’s plenty of work to go around.

“Despite whatever contracts may exist, municipalities or different ministries, there’s a heck of a lot of garbage along our roads,” he said.

“We’re seeing more and more graffiti in our cities, even our small towns. I think it makes a lot of sense to ask prisoners who have taken from society to give something back.”

But some are questioning the Tories’ commitment to seeing the program through.

Many prison work programs were casualties of the Tories’ war on government spending during the Harris years, said Don Ford, a spokesperson for the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union.

The Harris cuts closed many institutions that had work programs where inmates canned food, worked with the Transportation Ministry and even planted flowers on the grounds of the Ontario legislature, he said.

“We’re all in favour if inmates are out doing work that might actually be a transferable skill when they get out of jail,” he said.

“What we don’t want to see is … (to) put people out of work by using what’s in effect free labour out of the jails.”

ON: Banner Drop in Solidarity with Hunger Strikers

July 4th 2011

On the morning of Monday, July 4th, we dropped a banner off a building overlooking City Hall in downtown Kingston, Ontario that read “Collins Bay to Pelican Bay ~ Solidarity with Prisoners on Strike ~ Against Prisons.”

We are inspired by prisoners at Collins Bay Federal Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario who began a work strike on June 28th demanding an end to overcrowding at the prison, and are protesting worsening conditions. The federal prison restructuring and increasing criminalization has caused double bunking at many prisons and is intensifying tensions inside and outside prisons. check out: http://www.cancrime.com/2011/06/29/prison-bosses-secretly-consider-double-bunking/

We are also inspired by prisoners in the Security Housing Unit in Pelican Bay, California who began a hunger strike on July 1st to contest their conditions of confinement and torture. check out: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com

We express solidarity with prisoners in struggle, recognizing prison as a clear target of our resistance to capitalism and State power.

- anarchists

Ashley Smith’s family settles wrongful-death lawsuit

May 4th 2011

The family of a mentally ill teenager who died in her prison cell has settled its wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government.

“The matter was settled to the satisfaction of all parties,” said Julian Falconer, the lawyer for Coralee Smith, the mother of Ashley Smith.

Citing a confidentiality clause, Mr. Falconer would not reveal the terms of the deal, which was reached in April. The family’s lawsuit claimed damages of $11-million.

More related to this story

  • Inquest last chance to get full story of Ashley Smith tragedy
  • Ashley Smith’s family challenges coroner’s decision to ignore videos
  • Why is coroner’s office ignoring crucial evidence in teen’s suicide?

Ashley Smith, 19, died with strip of cloth around her neck on the floor of her segregation cell at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., on Oct. 19, 2007.

“This lawsuit was brought by the family to hold Correctional Services accountable for all of the inhumane and appalling conditions Ashley Smith was kept in,” Mr. Falconer said. “This lawsuit was very much about a conspiracy of senior correctional management to leave a young, mentally ill teen in isolation without help and ultimately without the most basic of human needs.”

The lawsuit, which named several defendants, noted that Ms. Smith was transferred 17 times in the year she spent in federal custody and often tried to harm herself.

At the time of her death, guards were under orders not to intervene unless she had stopped breathing.

A report for the Correctional Services Canada concluded that Ms. Smith had been desperately seeking attention and sensory stimulation after being systematically moved from isolation cells. Her use of ligatures, the report found, was designed to draw staff into her cell to rescue her.

On Ontario coroner’s inquest into Ms. Smith’s death is scheduled to start on May 16.

BC: Watchdog probes prisoner’s death

April 21st 2011

The murder last November of a B.C. prisoner who ended up sharing a cell with one of Canada’s most prolific killers — and who reportedly begged to be relocated before his death — prompted an extensive internal Correctional Service of Canada investigation involving nearly 60 witnesses, documents show.

But details of what investigators found — and what they recommended — are being closely guarded.

Postmedia News requested a copy of their report under the Access to Information Act and received an 80-page report with most of the pages blacked out.

The case has now attracted the attention of the country’s corrections watchdog.

Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, confirmed his office has started a preliminary investigation of the case.

“Unacceptably high numbers of inmates are dying from non-natural causes,” he said.

During the fiscal year that just ended in March, there were at least 51 in-custody deaths at federal institutions across Canada, Sapers said.

Preliminary numbers show that four cases were homicides, five were suicides, one was an overdose and 34 were from natural causes. The remaining cases are still under investigation.

Jeremy Phillips, 33, was found dead in his cell on Nov. 22, 2010, at the medium-security Mountain Institution in Agassiz. Phillips, who was serving time for aggravated assault, had been sharing a cell with Michael McGray, a six-time killer from Eastern Canada who had been transferred from nearby Kent Institution, a maximum-security facility.

Citing a police report, the National Post reported last month that McGray confessed to assaulting Phillips with a ligature made from a bed sheet, which he later flushed down the toilet. In an interview with the newspaper a decade ago, he said killing gives him a “big high.” Still, no criminal charges have been filed.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr said this week investigators are waiting to receive a pathologist’s report, which should arrive within the next 30 days.

“Once we have that, we will complete the report to Crown Counsel and submit it,” he said.

The National Post also reported that Phillips’s family has filed an $11-million lawsuit alleging that prison staff showed “reckless indifference” and negligence.

Phillips apparently “pleaded” for a cell relocation because he was terrified of McGray.

CSC officials declined to discuss the case, citing the continuing investigation.

The four-person investigative team assigned by the federal agency to look into the murder spent parts of December and January interviewing 58 people at Kent and Mountain Institutions, including corrections officers, psychologists, nurses and wardens, according to their report, which was completed in February.

Sapers said in cases like this, investigators would be probing the timeliness and thoroughness of security checks by jail staff, whether staff reviewed the compatibility of the inmates, and whether proper procedures were followed in approving the transfer from maximum security to medium security.

http://www.canada.com/

Toronto Anarchist Solidarity 5 Banks Vandalized and Redecorated

April 20th 2011

Reposted from anarchistnews.org

5 Banks in North Toronto were vandalized and redecorated on Sunday [April] 17th.

as an act of Anarchist solidarity with the Mapuche struggle for land, autonomy and freedom in Wamapu so called “Southern Chile.

and as an act of Anarchist Solidarity with the Haudenesseunee Struggle for land, autonomy and freedom in the great lakes bio-region.

Most of all it is in solidarity for those in prison in both “Canada” and “Chile” who have struggled with dignity against our mutually repressive colonial states. For those who still have the will to refuse submission.

The banks targetted
two Bank of Montreals
two TD Canada Trusts
one Scotiabank

More court appearances for alleged G20 firestarter

April 13th 2011

Charged with torching a Toronto police cruiser during last June’s G20 protests here, a Windsor Ont., man, who initially pleaded guilty, then withdrew the plea and fired his lawyer, has reversed his position again.

Nicodemo Catenacci on Friday announced in court he wanted to rehire lawyer Erin Dann and continue with his guilty plea.

Appearing frustrated and conflicted as he addressed an Ontario court judge, Catenacci explained he has been unable to retain a new lawyer since his earlier court date in March.

“It’s just been tough getting a lawyer . . .It’s been a very confusing thing,” Catenacci told Justice Fern Weinper, noting every lawyer he has approached has demanded an “outrageous” sum of money to handle his case.

He said he had apologized to Dann, who he fired in March after complaining she “convinced” him to plead guilty, and wanted to retain her services again in order to move forward with the guilty plea.

Shortly after the words left his mouth, Crown attorney Elizabeth Nadeau asked the judge for a recess, and accompanied Catenacci out of the courtroom. When they returned about an hour later with a temporary defence lawyer, Catenacci asked for 60 days to “straighten it out” with Dann’s firm.

After Weinper indicated it was unlikely Dann would take on the case again, Catenacci said he would continue to search for a new lawyer.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Catenacci said, adding he keeps “hoping this thing will go away, but it won’t.”

The judge gave him 30 days, noting despite his turnaround on the guilty plea, sentencing would have to wait until the accused had a lawyer to represent him — particularly after his last court date, when Catenacci essentially argued he was innocent.

“In light of these remarks . . . I am not prepared to proceed to sentencing today,” Weinper said, setting a new court date for May 13.

Catenacci, who initially pleaded guilty to arson in the case, admitted he threw a lit piece of paper into a police cruiser during a G20 riot on Toronto streets.

He explained he was high that day on cocaine, which clouded his judgment.

During his sentencing hearing in March, however, Catenacci said the lit paper did not ignite a blaze, and he “never wanted to plead guilty” to the crime.

After telling the judge he was being treated “unfairly” and requesting time to obtain new counsel — whom he was supposed to have hired by Friday — Catenacci stormed out of court, shouting at the police officers who handled the case: “We’re going to play hardball now.”

The Crown was requesting a prison sentence of up to two years, citing Catenacci’s 17 prior convictions, mostly for theft and breach of court orders.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/

Woman sentenced to life in ‘panhandler murder’ case

April 8th 2011

A 24-year-old panhandler found guilty of fatally stabbing a man on Queen Street West in August 2007 has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 12 years.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer handed down his sentence to Nicole ‘Nyki’ Kish on Monday, April 4.

“It is terrifying to be continually punished for this crime that I did not commit. I am no murderer and my heart is not selfish,” she read during the sentencing hearing.

On March 11, Kish was convicted of second-degree murder for the August 8, 2007 killing of 32-year-old Ross Hammond.

An Internet marketer originally from St. Catherines, Hammond died after being stabbed four times in the chest during an altercation with Kish and three others after he reportedly said an explicative while refusing to give them $20.

While her friends kicked and punched him as he lay on the road, Kish is believed to have delivered the final blow.

The deceased and his 38-year-old friend George Dranichak were bar-hopping at the time of the deadly altercation. Dranichak fled the scene leaving Hammond to fend for himself.

Several people witnessed the attack, which took place outside a TD bank machine near Queen and Niagara streets. Many area residents, passersby and those who work nearby testified during Kish’s trial.

Kish, who declined to take the stand during her trial, pleaded not guilty in connection with the stabbing.

The three co-accused pleaded guilty to lesser offences and have since been deported to the United States.

This case has led to calls for a ban on panhandling in the City of Toronto.

More info at: http://www.freenyki.org/

SK: Government pledges $12M to expand prison

March 30th 2011

The Saskatchewan government has announced $12 million in funding to deal with overcrowding at the province’s only prison for women.

The project will add 32 cells in a separate building at the Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert.

Construction is expected to be completed in March 2013.

The cost of the project will be spread over the next two years, with $7 million allocated in the 2011 budget.

http://saskatoon.ctv.ca

Court challenge could derail start of Ashley Smith inquest

March 30th 2011

TORONTO— The start of a coroner’s inquest into the prison death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith almost four years ago will most likely be delayed so an Ontario court can hear a motion against the exclusion of prison surveillance videos from the proceedings.

Earlier this week, Ontario’s deputy chief coroner Dr. Bonita Porter, ruled tapes showing the New Brunswick teenager being forcibly medicated and physically restrained against her will at the Joliette Institution north of Montreal in July 2007, months before her death, were irrelevant to the inquest.

Smith fatally strangled herself in a segregated prison cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., on Oct. 19, 2007.

“This should be cleared up before we do an inquest. It’s fundamental,” said Smith family lawyer, Julian Falconer on Wednesday. “At the end of the day, the real question (that) needs to be said here is, if deplorable abuse of a mentally ill teen less than 90 days before her death isn’t relevant to her state of mind and self-harm, then it begs the question, what is?”

The inquest, scheduled to begin Monday, is expected to take anywhere from six to nine months and hear from more than 100 witnesses.

Its purpose is to prevent similar deaths from occurring in the future.

Mr. Falconer, along with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, a rights group for inmates, and the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, argue that a coroner’s jury needs to be shown the videos because they offer a glimpse of Smith’s “spiralling state of mind” prior to her death. The motion was dismissed Monday in a 14-page ruling by Dr. Porter.

The groups have now asked the Ontario divisional court to set aside the coroner’s decision.

“The mistreatment of Ashley by the staff at Joliette should be explored before the inquest jury,” said Irwin Elman, Ontario’s advocate for children and youth in a statement. “We need to have a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ashley Smith.”

Smith’s death was initially believed to be a suicide but was recently questioned in a medical expert’s report that the disturbed young woman may have died by accident in an attempt to seek attention. It was also later discovered that prison guards at the Grand Valley Institution were instructed to not intervene in her self-injurious behaviours. A video showed the guards who watched the incident did not step in when Smith tied a piece of cloth around her neck.

During this time, Smith was transferred 17 times to prisons in Ontario, the Maritimes, the Prairies and Quebec due to her bad behaviour, staff fatigue and overcrowding. The majority of this time was spent in segregation, wearing a prison gown and shackles.

Coralee Smith, who is still recovering from recent quadruple bypass surgery, was scheduled to fly to Toronto Monday for her daughter’s inquest. It’s unclear if she’ll still be making the trip if the proceedings are delayed.

A spokeswoman for the Ontario coroner’s office said it was not prepared to make any comments about the pending legal motion.

http://www.nationalpost.com/

NB: Inmate charged with assaulting judge

March 29th 2011

A prison inmate has been charged with assaulting a provincial court judge.

Peter Monteith appeared in Moncton provincial court last week and was charged with assault with a weapon and causing a disturbance in connection to an October incident that occurred in a courtroom.

In Judge Pierre Arseneault’s court on Oct. 26, an individual in the prisoner’s dock became angry and threw a Criminal Code at the judge, who was not hurt in the attack.

Monteith is also charged with escaping lawful custody for allegedly fleeing sheriff’s officers while being taken out of Assumption Place on Dec. 21. After a court appearance, a man ran from sheriff’s officers while being escorted to a waiting van and was on the loose for two hours and 40 minutes before being arrested. It was later learned he’d broken the chain on his shackles, allowing him to run.

Monteith asked for an adjournment and his election and plea were set over until April 6.

The accused may also soon face other charges of assaulting a Moncton judge while in court. On Feb. 7 a prisoner threw a Criminal Code at Court of Queen’s Bench Justice George Rideout, but the judge was able to block the book with his hand at the last moment.

Several sheriff’s officers tackled the inmate, who was in shackles with his hands chained to his waist.

Codiac RCMP said at the time an assault charge would likely result from the incident.

Monteith is serving a 33-month prison term after pleading guilty to robbing the Subway restaurant at 706 Main St. on Sept. 9, 2009. He also stood trial recently and was convicted of robbing the Shediac Road Convenience Store at 1615 Shediac Road on Oct. 23, 2009. He has not yet been sentenced for that offence.

http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com

Man found guilty of mischief for his role in prison riot

March 25th 2011

A man was found guilty Thursday of mischief in connection with a riot that caused more than $300,000 worth of damage at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

Alexandru Radacina earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of taking part in a riot and was convicted after a trial of mischief to property over $5,000.

The riot took place the morning of Feb. 9, 2008, after corrections officers tried to transfer Radacina and two other inmates. Other inmates began banging on their cell doors and yelling. Eventually 31 inmates on that unit and seven on another broke out of their cells.

Video cameras captured Radacina breaching the door to one cell, throwing a microwave and a television, kicking at an office door, throwing an object at a window and breaking a clock.

Other inmates set fires, broke windows, kicked through doors and ripped out sinks and toilets.

Although there was no evidence that Radacina himself caused more than $5,000 worth of damage, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Carol Ross agreed with the Crown that Radacina did the damage as part of a group.

“I am satisfied Mr. Radacina acted in concert with other inmates to cause mischief,” she concluded.

Radacina was one of 14 people charge in connection with the riot.

http://www.theprovince.com/

Montreal, QC: Two Security Companies Attacked

March 23rd 2011

Reposted from anarchistnews.org

Windows were smashed and paint was thrown on the walls and surveillance cameras of two security companies in Montreal, QC. One company was attacked for its role in the installation of CCTV cameras and the other because it trains security agents. Take aim and target those complicit in the maintenance of this society of domination.

Solidarity to the North West US in their struggle against the pigs & to Montreal area anarchists facing state repression.

-Anarchists

Anarchists Cause Disturbance at Chilean Consulate

March 22nd 2011

On March 22nd, anarchists in Vancouver, Canada – Occupied Coast Salish Territories, caused a disturbance at the Chilean Consulate and on the street outside. With this we send a strong embrace to our imprisoned companeros on hunger strike in Chile. 14 anarchists and comrades have been framed with conspiracy charges for incendiary explosive attacks against state and capitalist institutions. Nine began an indefinite hunger strike on February 21. Four Mapuche prisoners re-started hunger strike on March 15th.

In Vancouver, Five people shouted “For freedom! For Anarchy! Let the comrades go!”, banged on the locked door and threw leaflets in the hallway outside of the Consulate. Two people opened the door briefly to grab leaflets off the ground as we were leaving.

Meanwhile, on the street 16 floors below, a group unfurled a banner, wielded black flags and distributed leaflets. Three cops responding to a call from the consulate attempted to inform the group of their rights to protest and to locate a leader, but were met only with our cries for freedom and the chant “Cops, Pigs, Murderers”. We didn’t let our rights as “citizens” set the parameters for our actions, rather, these restrictions imposed by the State are what we seek to undermine through our struggle.

Later we reconvened to distribute information outside the Scotia Bank at Broadway and Commercial Drive. Drivers honked their horns in support and passers by showed interest. Canada’s Scotia Bank is expanding it’s investments in resource extraction on indigenous land in Chile. As Stephen McDonald, co-chief executive officer of the bank’s orgraniztion Scotia Capital put it, “We’re going to be more aggressive on that front over the coming years … We’ve been underinvested in the mining sector, so we made a commitment to growing it.” Mapuche people have been defending their land from the threat of mining for years, specifically in the Leu Leu Lake region.

As anarchists we fight to steal back the means of our existence and destroy the State and Capitalism. We act in solidarity with indigenous struggles for land and freedom as we fight against the same enemies and often share parallel goals.

The struggles of our companeros in prison is only isolated if we let it be so. Inside and outside the struggles continue.

The walls are breaking already with each act of solidarity!

OUR SOLIDARITY KNOWS NO BORDERS.

WITH LOVE, FOR FREEDOM,

Some Anarchists from Occupied Coast Salish Territories

Read More About the Hunger Strike:

Nine Anarchists and Companeros on Hunger Strike: Chile Day 25

English Information and Updates:

http://santiaskoanarquista.noblogs.org/

http://thisisourjob.wordpress.com/

En Español:

http://solidaridadporlxspresxs.blogspot.com/

http://libertadalos14a.blogspot.com/

http://hommodolars.org/

Prisoner’s sister wonders what happened in brother’s death

March 22nd 2011

The sister of an inmate shot by a Correctional Service Canada officer at Millhaven Institution on Sunday says neither the police nor the correctional service has told her family the circumstances behind his death.

The Whig-Standard learned on Wednesday that 29-year-old Jordan Trudeau died after being shot by a guard while Trudeau was in the midst of a stabbing attack on another inmate.

Another inmate taking part in the assault was also shot and wounded while the victim of the attack also suffered injuries. They were both taken to Kings­ton General Hospital with what police described as “serious injuries.” No further word has been released on their condition.

The Joint Forces Penitentiary Squad is investigating the incident, but it has yet to release any findings.

The post mortem on Trudeau’s body was performed at an Ottawa hospital on Tuesday.

“We have nothing to report.” OPP Sgt. Kristine Rae said Friday. “Hopefully Monday.”

Amanda Trudeau said her family has been told nothing about the investigation.

“I just know what I read about it,” she said. “I haven’t spoken with the police yet. I would like to know what’s going on.”

Jordan Trudeau will be buried with a combined Roman Cath­olic and First Nations ritual service at 11 a.m. Monday at the St. Ignatius Parish in Buzwah, near his home of Wikwemikong on Manitoulin Island.

His body arrived back at his home town Friday and is now resting at the church. There will be prayer services throughout the weekend.

His body will be cremated after Monday’s service.

Amanda Trudeau said her older brother didn’t tell her he may have had problems at Millhaven.

“The last time I talked to him was last week,” she said. “We just talked about the regular stuff.

“He was good as far as I knew. He didn’t mention that he was hated by anybody or he hated anybody.”

She described her brother as an easygoing person who had a sense of humour and was respectful. She also said he was a good artist and liked to draw.

“He was very artistic and smart.”

He worked outside cutting trees and was also a traditional native drummer.

Trudeau described her brother as a family man, a single father with four daughters, aged 3 to 10.

“He lived by his girls. They always came first,” she said.

http://www.thewhig.com

Inmates to help in flood preparation efforts

March 22nd 2011

Federal inmates in Manitoba will be assisting in flood-fighting efforts, said officials.

Inmates will help fill sandbags at Rockwood Institution, a minimum-security facility.

A sandbag machine has already been delivered to the facility. It requires a minimum of 48 workers to produce at full capacity, said officials. It’s expected about 65 inmates in total will be working on the project.

The Correctional Service of Canada is partnering with the Provincial Emergency Measures Office and the RMs of Headingley, Cartier and St. Francois Xavier to coordinate supplying sandbags to areas.

The project also involves a joint effort between staff at Rockwood and at Stony Mountain Institution, said officials.

ctvwinnipeg.ca

Federal inmates seeking first raise in 25 years

March 18th 2011

In Canada, crime pays. Just not very much.

That’s why there’s a movement from inside and outside of the prison walls to give Canada’s federal inmates a raise.

Prisoners can get paid between $5.25 and $6.90 a day if they follow their correctional plans. Each of Canada’s approximately 13,000 federal inmates gets one of these road maps to rehabilitation, which can include work programs, training and even conflict- management sessions.

And those wages could be subject to union negotiation if a group of inmates in a B.C. prison is successful in organizing Canada’s first prison union, Confederation Prisoners’ Labour Union, Local 001.

“They haven’t had an increase in their wages in 25 years,” said Natalie Dunbar, the criminal lawyer representing the inmates, who can work as mechanics, furniture makers, laundry staff and even haz-mat technicians. “The guys generally make, before deductions, $35 to $40, every two weeks and that’s for 12 hours a day, generally six days a week.”

But the movement begs the question what right do inmates have when it comes to getting paid in jail -a question that divides those who think wages should be bumped up, or for the sake of taxpayers, eliminated.

“It’s an incentive to invite them to actively take part in their rehabilitation,” said Suzanne Leclerc, spokeswomen for the Correctional Service.

Providing an incentive is redundant because parole boards assess participation, says John Hutton of the John Howard Society. A better goal would be giving prisoners a firm financial footing when they return to society, and that would require a raise, he says.

“It’s not happening at these wages,” says Hutton. “The amounts are so small I suspect there isn’t a lot of budgeting or saving. People earn the money and then they spend it.”

It costs the government approximately $101,000 to keep one inmate in prison for a year. Prisoners are responsible for paying for their own cable, phone calls, snacks, pens and paper, coffee, tea and even Aspirin. The government also deducts 10 per cent of an inmate’s paycheque and deposits it into a savings account.

They should be paying for a lot more if they expect to get a wage, according to Kevin Gaudet, former federal director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He says taxpayers already pay for rehabilitation programs and shouldn’t have to pay prisoners to attend them.

“They want to get paid, then charge them room and board. They can’t have it both ways,” says Gaudet. “The adage that crime doesn’t pay should be true.”

Tories try to defend prison costs

March 17th 2011

The Harper government inched closer Wednesday to being found in contempt of Parliament, despite releasing more detailed cost estimates of its tough-on-crime agenda.

Opposition MPs dismissed the 11th-hour document dump as a meaningless stunt and accused the government of continuing to hide the full cost of 18 crime bills critics maintain will fill Canada’s prisons to bursting.

“I think they’re provoking the obvious outcome of these hearings,” said New Democrat MP Pat Martin midway through the first of three days of Commons committee hearings into possible contempt citations against the government and one of its ministers.

“I would say we’re incrementally, hour by hour, getting closer to a finding of contempt.”

Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said the government should have released the full cost estimates months ago when first asked, not 15 minutes before two ministers were to testify at the contempt hearings, giving opposition MPs little time to digest the new information.

“The ministers’ stunt today reinforces the Harper regime’s contempt for Parliament and contempt for taxpayers.”

None of the opposition parties were buying the government’s $631-million price tag for the 18 bills.

The politically charged hearings opened as all parties prepare for an election that could be triggered as early as next week — either over next Tuesday’s budget or a Liberal confidence motion.

They were prompted by last week’s unprecedented double rebuke of the minority Conservative government by Commons Speaker Peter Milliken. He ruled the government breached parliamentary privilege by refusing to fully disclose the cost estimates for its justice agenda, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets.

He also ruled International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda breached parliamentary privilege by misleading MPs about an altered government document.

The government had provided some information about the cost of its law-and-order agenda last month, but Milliken ruled it fell short of what the Commons finance committee had asked for.

On Wednesday, fat binders detailing how the government arrived at its cost estimates were distributed to MPs, just moments before Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews were to testify.

The ministers maintained the documents represent a full accounting of all the costs associated with the 18 crime bills, where estimates are possible.

They maintained the $631-million tab is reasonable for ensuring Canadians’ safety and protecting the rights of victims.

“We know that action has a cost, a cost we are willing to pay,” said Toews.

Under questioning, however, it became clear the new estimates are not substantively different than what the government tabled last month and do not include all costs.

The tab does not include the tab for Bill C-25, which eliminated the two-for-one credit given offenders for time spent in pre-sentence custody. Toews said that’s because the committee didn’t ask for costs on that specific bill.

He stood by the government’s estimate C-25 will cost $2.1 billion over five years for prison expansion and additional prison personnel. But the independent parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, has pegged the cost at $5 billion over five years plus billions more in prison costs for provincial governments.

Nicholson also suggested additional costs could arise when the federal government negotiates cost-sharing with the provinces for a stiffer Youth Justice Act.

Conservative MPs charged the government can’t get a fair hearing from the opposition-dominated committee that seems determined to find it in contempt.

More jail than we need?

March 17th 2011

Across the country there has been a statistical decline in crime rates since 1999. The federal government’s own data says that Toronto is the third-safest city in Canada. Both self-reported and police-reported crime rates are low in Toronto compared to other municipalities across the country.

In America, prison expansion measures and the “tough on crime” approach have met neither criminal justice nor public health goals. Instead they have led to the widespread incarceration of racial minorities, people living in poverty, people with mental health issues, non-status people, and people who use drugs, all while exacerbating the syndemic of HIV and Hepatitis C. Despite this track record and Canada’s own falling crime rate, Harper’s “tough on crime” agenda is rearing its ugly head in Toronto—and it’ll come with a big social and economic price tag for residents of the city.

One example: currently under construction—at a cost of $1.1 billion to Ontario taxpayers over thirty years—is the 1,650-bed Toronto South Detention Centre located near Mimico. The 67,000 square metre facility, a so-called “superjail,” aims to replace the 550-bed Toronto Don Jail.

Last week on March 10, about sixty people gathered at Old City Hall on Queen Street with the Prison Moratorium Action Coalition for a rally to protest this government direction. The coalition was formed in opposition to “tough on crime” and prison-expansion measures; it aims to put pressure on the Conservative government, and any companies assisting with their prison expansion plan, until funds are diverted into social services and appropriate social housing. As Justin Piché, a renowned critic of the federal and provincial “tough on crime” agenda, has noted, the cost of this new prison is so great that “those of us in our late twenties… will still be paying for the construction of this facility well into our fifties and its operation likely until the day we die.”

Piché’s research has found that these new institutions are being developed based on the argument that the “prison population is no longer a homogeneous population,” meaning: politicians and corrections bureaucrats need a way to deal with the increasing number of women, undocumented people, those with mental health issues, and drug users who are being incarcerated, not to mention the many indigenous peoples who have always been overrepresented in Canada’s prisons. (While indigenous people make up around 4% of the Canadian public, they make up 17% of the federal male prison population and 33% of the federal female prison population. )

Currently, many prisoners are double-bunked at the decrepit Don Jail, a practice that runs counter to the United Nations standards governing the treatment of prisoners, which Canada has signed onto. Although officials may have been saying that we need the new Mimico prison to replace the Don, other prisons constructed in the past ten years (e.g., Central East Correctional Centre and Central North Correctional Centre) were also supposedly built to replace the Don Jail, which has been slated for closure for decades. This brings new life to the adage “if you build it they will come.”

And why not build? After all, big prisons are big business. Following in the footsteps of the American-style prison industrial complex, the Mimico facility is credited with being Ontario’s first pre-fabricated prison. Tindall Corp., one of the leaders in the American privatized prison industry and the inventor of pre-fabricated prison cells, is bringing its invention to Toronto via Zeidler Partnership Architects. Toronto’s Zeidler Partnership Architects (whose projects include the Eaton Centre, Ontario Place, and the refurbished Gladstone Hotel) have designed the new prison as part of a $593-million contract with Toronto-based companies EllisDon Corporation and Fengate Capital.

But while big prisons will make big Toronto businesses more money, they are not economical for the taxpayer: beyond the $1.1-billion price tag for construction, the annual cost of housing a prisoner in Canada can run anywhere from around $52,000 to $250,000 per person, depending on the level of security at the facility [PDF].

On top of this, Canada’s prisons have become super-hubs of HIV and hepatitis C infection. Rates of HIV and hepatitis C are far above the general population, with HIV prevalence at least fifteen times higher in federal prisons than the general public and hepatitis C prevalence almost forty times higher. (Averting just one HIV infection saves approximately $150,000 in lifetime medical costs, not to mention the massive social cost). Building new superjails without addressing the existing health crisis among prisoners will only lead to more of the same.

When it is completed in fall of 2012, the South Toronto Detention Centre in Mimico will be a $1.1-billion super-prison, the first of its kind for our city and province and an acknowledgment that political games and big business mean more than the lives of marginalized residents of our city.

Prison guard quits job and sues bosses

March 17th 2011

A financial settlement has been reached for a former Ottawa prison guard who experienced a homophobic and “poisonous” work atmosphere at the hands of his previous boss.

After travelling back and forth from Ottawa to Toronto for more than 70 meetings with Correctional Services over the last decade, Robert Ranger, 50, was awarded $244,242 plus interest last month. He had been on long-term disability since 2002. He worked for 20 years as a prison guard, but he left his job at Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) because of homophobic torment he received from his superior and then-president of Correctional Services OPSEU Local 411, Mark Grady.

Ranger’s settlement does not include damages, which will be decided later this year.

“[Both parties] agreed on the amount for lost wages for the grievor between 2002 and 2010, including shift premium and overtime. The parties also agreed on the LTIP paid to grievor and the interest payable if simple or compound,” the decision reads. “This matter is scheduled to proceed with outstanding issues on damages in February and March, and I shall provide full reasons for the decision here in the final award on the remedy for the grievor.”

The settlement follows a series of decisions the Grievance Settlement Board has already made in this case. A decision last year upheld a complaint filed against the Corrections Ministry that it allowed harassment against Ranger to continue unchecked from 1998 to 2002. During that time, Ranger worked at OCDC. When he left, it took 18 months for prison officials to begin investigating his complaints…

Corrections Canada training Afghan Prison Guards

March 15th 2011

Afghan officers hurry to get into their protective gear as a riot starts to rage out of control at a government compound in Kandahar city.

Within minutes, the squad advances to the scene to find an unruly mob brandishing crowbars. The police lines are immediately pelted by rocks, water bottles and whatever else the rioters can find.

A command is given and the unit charges the assailants, backing them into a confined space. Staying in a tight formation, the officers fend off kicks and jabs with their shields, then use batons to swat the attackers’ arms and legs. There’s a yelp, and soon one of the rioters drops to the ground in surrender.

That’s when a booming voice comes in from the side, freezing everyone in a fighting pose.

“OK guys, that’s enough,” says Dan Jack, a Canadian correctional officer from the Vancouver area. “That was much better. But we still have some things to work on, so let’s do it again.”

As Jack’s comment reveals, the “riot” in this case is only a practice simulation. The government compound in question is a secure training centre at NATO’s Camp Nathan Smith. And the roles of rioters and officers are in fact played by guards from Kandahar’s Sarpoza Prison who are learning how to humanely quell an inmate uprising.

For their Canadian instructors, creating a capable Emergency Response Team at Sarpoza is the last major project on the agenda before they leave Kandahar later this spring — the final piece of Canada’s four-year effort to build the prison into a modern, self-sufficient institution.

“I’m so proud we’re ending with this ERT training,” says team leader Ian Chinnery, a Kingston, Ont., resident. “We’re trying to finish strong so we really get them set up for the long run.”

The Canadians’ final project, however, isn’t an easy one. Emergency response training involves an intense three-week course that requires correctional officers Jack, Chinnery and Allan Ramirez Breeuwer to push their students hard, both physically and mentally.

Sarpoza guards, who get no extra pay for serving on the response team, are taught to use batons and shields on each other. They are sleep-deprived, woken up in the middle of the night to conduct exercises. Riot simulations are real enough that they leave marks.

“For them to get through this course, it’s going to be taxing,” says Jack. “The experience will hopefully bring them together as a team, and weed out those who aren’t going to make it.”

The most unpleasant moment of all this is the pepper-spray exercise.

One at a time, each of the trainees is hit in the face with a blast of the powerful liquid. Then, with their eyes, nose and throat burning, they have to fight through a gauntlet of instructors trying to knock them around.

The purpose of the drill is twofold: to show the students they can still defend themselves while injured, and to get them to think twice before deciding to use pepper spray on an inmate.

“Every one of those guys now knows what it can do and they won’t make a prisoner suffer if they can help it,” says Chinnery, watching as the trainees dump bottle after bottle of water on their faces following the exercise. “They will respect it as a tool because they know what it feels like.”

The curriculum used to go even farther, requiring a week’s training on the use of a “lethal option” to deal with particularly dangerous situations. After consideration, the Canadians decided to take it out of the course.

“We found the students were reluctant to even consider using lethal force,” Jack says. “In their system, if they kill an inmate they go to prison, and we don’t want nervous people handling firearms.”

The emergency response instruction has now progressed to the point that there are Afghan master trainers who can carry on the course lessons after the Canadians leave.

One of those master trainers is Ainudin, who has stayed on the job despite the fact he was in a van full of guards that was attacked by insurgents last August. One guard was killed and 10 were injured in the blast, including Ainudin, who had a piece of shrapnel removed from his head.

“The insurgents cannot stop us by doing this. We need to support this country, so we will keep working,” he says through an interpreter.

In this vein, he says the creation of an Emergency Response Team is important for Sarpoza, since it will allow the prison to deal with its own problems rather than call in heavily armed soldiers.

“In the past when we had protests, we were compelled to call the Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police for support,” Ainudin says. “Now we are independent, which is a huge achievement.”

The big test of the team’s skills could come in April, when the Canadians plan to conduct a surprise simulation at the prison that will gauge the facility’s entire crisis-management system.

“It will be a big scenario that will probably involve a hostage-taking,” Chinnery says. “I fully expect the warden will run down and try to solve it himself, but we won’t let him because we want him to send in the response team.”

“For our part, we done everything we can. Now it’s a matter of letting them run with the tools we’ve given them.

Vancouver: Paint to Probation Office and Signs

March 15th 2011

On the night of March 15th, the front of the probation office on Commercial Drive, Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver), was covered with the messages: “Prisoners to the Street!” “Fuck the Police!” and the circle A. Large new signs installed on Commercial Drive to help tourists find their way were completely obscured by paint as well.

A small act in solidarity with comrades in prison on hunger strike in Chile and with comrades in the Puget Sound fighting the police!

Santa Cruz, CA: Attack on Police

March 15th 2011

Two Santa Cruz County Sheriff Department vehicles were attacked on the night of March 15th. Their tires were slashed and etching fluid was thrown onto their windows.

Seattle. Montreal. Bahrain. Fuck the pigs.

Government changing isolation protocol for women

March 15th 2011

A court case on whether solitary confinement violates a prisoner’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedom will go ahead despite Ottawa’s intention to modify the rules under which violent women can be placed in segregation, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says.

“Correctional Service Canada has made similar statements in the past but continues to operate the management protocol and women continue to suffer under it,” Grace Pastine, litigation director for the association, said Monday in an interview.

More related to this story

The management protocol, introduced in 2003, is a set of guidelines that enables a prison to place female inmates who engage in violent and aggressive behaviour in solitary confinement if they cannot be supervised adequately in a maximum security unit.

The Correctional Investigator in 2009 recommended the rules be immediately rescinded, raising concerns about the impact of this form of confinement on the mental health and emotional well-being of women who required treatment, not deprivation. In response, CSC said it would review the protocol.

But the protocol remains untouched, Ms. Pastine said. “They continue to operate [it],” she said.

CSC released a report on alternative approaches in May, 2010. “Yet CSC did not commit itself to abandoning the protocol – and explicitly refused to abandon it,” she said.

The association’s lawsuit on solitary confinement will continue even if CSC abandons the protocol, Ms. Pastine added. “The protocol is only one program that relies on solitary confinement,” she said.

The civil liberties association is asking the court to find that any provisions allowing for lengthy solitary confinement – which she described as more than 30 consecutive days and more than twice a year – is unconstitutional, she said.

The association filed a lawsuit against CSC earlier this month on behalf of Bobby Lee Ann Worm, a 24-year-old aboriginal woman from Saskatchewan, currently incarcerated in British Columbia.

Ms. Worm was sentenced to five years in prison for assault and five armed robberies in Regina. She received an additional 16 months in prison for uttering threats to cause death or serious harm while in prison. The National Parole Board, which refused to grant her parole, has heard that Ms. Worm demonstrated a persistent pattern of violence while in prison. She has been placed in solitary confinement under the management protocol for the majority of her sentence, her lawyer said.

Suzanne Leclerc, acting director of media relations for Correctional Service Canada, said in an interview she could not comment on the lawsuit, a specific prisoner or an individual case.

However, she confirmed that the department is currently reviewing the approach to solitary confinement for higher risk female offenders. The department has consulted with prison managers, offenders, union workers and those outside prison, she said.

“We’re going to phase out this program and implement something else in late spring,” she said. “The department has been reviewing strategy to manage high-risk women to move from this management protocol and develop an alternative.”

Only two women are currently in solitary confinement under the management protocol, Ms. Leclerc said. Seven women have been held in solitary confinement under the management protocol since 2003.

Ms. Leclerc said inmates may be placed in administrative and disciplinary segregation under other approaches and those procedures would not be affected by changes to the management protocol, which applies solely to high-risk women.

Tacoma: Wells Fargo-Color & Glue

March 13th 2011

Last night paint was thrown on a Wells Fargo and the ATMS were glued shut. This was a small gesture of solidarity with comrades in Montreal. “LE 15 MARS, LA VENGEANCE.”

[Wells Fargo finances prisons and detention centres for migrants in the U$A].

Montreal, QC: Public Security Ministry vehicles vandalized

March — 2011

Several vehicles belonging to the Public Security Ministry of Quebec were doused in paint stripper and had their tires slashed. This Ministry oversees the provincial prisons and police forces.

Big ups to people who have been out on the streets in this city recently in solidarity with arrested anarchists and against the police, and also to people engaging in struggles against the police in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

Trains blocked in southern Ontario

March — 2011

[Edited and reposted from anarchistnews.org]

Police brutality and targeted violence against poor people are standard operating procedures. Police violence is not pointless. The essential function of this violence is to protect capital. In February the Police shot dead a native man accused of stealing two lemons. Several other young men of color have died by police firing squads in Toronto in 2010.

When the police unleashed their violent campaign to siege the City of Toronto for the G20. I launched a campaign of my own. I have copper-wired 5 major train lines to simulate the presence of a train on the tracks. This obstruction can take hours to find and clear, while the major train track delays can cost millions of dollars a minute. The rail lines are an important trade route for the economy and extremely vulnerable to sabotage.

What I did:

- Use a fairly thick but pliable gauge of copper-wire. (Found at hardware stores.)

- Cut the wire so that it is at least one foot longer than twice the size of the rails.

- Knock the train rocks from underneath two adjacent spots on the track to feed the wire underneath the rail. 
(I used a hammer and strong thin metal piece like rebar to knock the rocks out.)

- Loop the wire over the tracks and tie off the wire with itself, making a continuous loop.

- Press the wires firmly against the rails to get the most points of contact.

May resistance to capitalism and its state goons grow uncontrollable. Solidarity with those on the streets combating state violence every day and on March 15th, the International Day Against Police Brutality. Solidarity with the Montreal Anarchists facing repression.

Announcement for protest against tough on crime legislation

March 10th 2011

What Could we be Building Instead??
The Prison Moratorium Action Coalition calls for the defeat of Bill S-10 and for a halt to the planned prison expansion!

Please Join us on March 10th to confront the Government’s planned prison expansion and their ‘anti-crime’ legislation! We will be marching from Old City Hall to other locations in Toronto central to the prison expansion plans to voice our anger about the further criminalization of communities in Toronto!

RALLY AND MARCH
Thursday, March 10th
Meet at Noon
Old City Hall Courthouse
60 Queen Street West, Toronto.

We are speaking out at this particular moment to oppose the Conservative government’s push to enact legislation that will put their prison expansion to use. Bill S-10 is currently being debated in the House of Commons and, if passed, would implement mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offences. Mandatory Minimums were also put in place in the U.S, where they proved to be unsuccessful in combating the War on Drugs. The construction of new prisons, while crime, and specifically violent crime, has been steadily decreasing over the past ten years, is a ludicrous idea. The severity of the majority of crimes has lessened. Both the property crime rate and the youth crime rate have also dropped. We know that this is a waste of taxpayer’s money and a waste of financial resources that could be allocated to more important needs. Opposing MPS are also beginning to realize, and a serious debate over Bill S-10, and the Conservative approach to Crime and Punishment, has begun.

We demand that all members of Parliament defeat all the new ‘anti-crime’ bills proposed by the Conservatives, conscious of the fact that this tactic of fighting crime has proven unsuccessful in America. We demand that the government scrap Bill S-10, focus on harm reduction programs, and begin treating drug use as a health matter, not a criminal matter. We further demand an increase in harm reduction services, and adequate health service, in prisons. We demand the decriminalization of sex work. We wish to see policy alternatives proposed; to see an end to overcrowding in prisons by decreasing incarceration as a strategy; to see the development of education and training programs for those incarcerated to develop tools and strategies for living post-incarceration.

Though the numbers continue to fluctuate, this expansion has an estimated 5 billion dollar price tag per year, and will total a 9 billion dollar expenditure before it’s finished. The Conservative government refuses to listen to reason and look at the facts laid out before them.  Community organizers like us, who witness the over-incarceration and criminalization of many communities in this city, are vehemently opposed to increasing prisons and the continuation of the prison industrial complex. Instead of developing programs that work through a restorative justice model, that consider alternatives in incarceration (which are also less costly), the Conservative government wants to put more and more people in prisons, at a cost of anywhere from $88,000- $250,000 per prisoner every year.

This tougher approach to crime adopted by the Conservatives is akin to that taken up by America in recent years, which led to overcrowding in prisons and a recent repealing of this approach, due to its obvious failure. Their planned prison expansion will be met by our anger and protest over an obvious misuse of public funds and a continuation of the historical and institutional oppression of marginalized communities through police violence, criminalization and over-incarceration. In Canada, people from Indigenous and racialized communities are the most targeted and over-incarcerated group in the prison industrial complex. The growth of prisons will only see an increase in the discrimination, policing and imprisonment of members of these communities. Additionally, queer and trans communities, the poor and homeless, drug-users, non-status people, sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS and those with disabilities and mental health issues are targets for police violence, mistreatment and repression. They face a heightened risk of incarceration as well. The planned prison expansion will have serious consequences for many communities and people in our city.

As the Conservative government continues to push their ‘tough on crime’ agenda and while the debate continues over Bill S-10 in Parliament, the communities of Toronto, in conjunction with other cities, will not remain silent. We are here to voice our outrage and disgust at the Conservative agenda! We will not accept an agenda that will spend billions of dollars over the next few years on the expansion of prisons, diverting these funds from services like health care, education and social assistance, which are facing drastic and devastating cuts in the wake of a recession and brutal austerity measures.

BUILD HOMES, NOT PRISONS! FUND SOCIAL SERVICES, NOT PRISONS!

BC: Woman kept in ‘solitary’ for 3 years

March 9th 2011

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says a 24-year-old woman has unlawfully spent over three years in an isolation cell in an Abbotsford prison.

On Monday, BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine said a constitutional challenge seeking to “drastically reform” the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons was launched in B.C. Supreme Court in the form of a civil claim on behalf of the woman, Bobby Lee Worm.

The BCCLA says Worm has been confined up to 23 hours a day in a 10-by-8-foot cell for months at a time -and prison authorities don’t have to seek approval.

Worm, a First Nations woman originally from Saskatchewan, committed robberies to support her drug habit and suffers mental illnesses related to physical and sexual abuse in childhood, Pastine says.

Court records show Worm was sentenced for robbery and assault in 2006 and was convicted in February 2010 for “uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm” against corrections officers.

While in prison, she fought other prisoners and threatened prison staff.

Her sentence at Fraser Valley Institution is scheduled to expire in October 2012.

Pastine says a number of studies show solitary confinement -especially lengthy periods -causes “devastating psychological and physiological effects.”

Worm has served most of her sentence confined with no meaningful human contact, which will compound her pre-existing mental illness and make it harder for her to reintegrate when she’s released, Pastine said.

“Bobby Lee has told us that being in solitary confinement for years has emotionally and psychologically shattered her,” Pastine said.

“She would spend days on end counting the bricks in the wall just trying to keep a grip on her basic sense of humanity.”

BCCLA counsel Carmen Cheung said prison authorities continue to reject outside calls for oversight of their indefinite segregation powers.

Department of Corrections spokesman Alain Charette said he is aware of the BCCLA’s statement of claim but will not comment while the case is before the courts.

The BCCLA claim was filed on Friday and also seeks damages for Worm. A statement of defence has not been filed.

News on prison and pen-pals

March 8th 2011

March is national Criminal Justice Month, a declaration that happened a few years ago and marked with little more than a conference in Toronto.

But the month gives occasion to remember there are 1.6 million people in jail in the United States.  In Canada, there are just under 40, 000 in jail.

That’s an overwhelming number of people, isolated from the rest of society, with loads of time on their hands.

That’s why it’s understandable a prisoner would seek a pen-pal friendship. And it’s, by consequence,  not surprising there are loads of websites devoted to helping prisoners find them.

The reasons why someone on the outside would seek a pen-pal relationship with a prisoner are a little more varied.

Explanations online say pen pals can offer legal, spiritual and social guidance to inmates. One site states everyone from “Christians and judges and prison activists to those who are just curious” seeks pen-pal friendships with inmates.

And while the sites downplay the romantic goals of a connection, most posts are from men looking to write to women – a curiosity since several sites require inmates, or more accurately their loved ones, to pay for their listings.

When a romantic connection happens, it can get attention. Oprah devoted an entire show to prison marriages this season. It showed a prison wedding taking place, well, the before and after parts, since even Oprah’s cameras couldn’t get into California State Prison for the actual ceremony.

A bit of controversy stirred in the U.S. recently when a Belgium woman, Isabelle Hayward, moved to Michigan to marry her prisoner pen pal, Clay Hayward. There were stirrings that she married to get a green card, which she denied.

“Just because we have an unusual situation doesn’t mean it’s not as valid as anyone else,” she said.

There are plenty of other unusual situations. An Ontario woman, Michelle Sauve, found her sweetheart on death-row in Texas. Justin Wiley Dickens was given the death penalty when he was just 17.

Dickens’s sentence has since been commuted to life, and the couple married shortly after. Despite this, it’s still not an entirely happy ending for the couple, who are not permitted conjugal visits.

“(Our relationship) is romantic, but not traditional romantic,” Sauve said.

Prisoner advocates say connecting with a pen pal is an excellent way for inmates to avoid feeling isolated, and stay in touch with what is happening in society. They point to research that shows relationships on the outside help deter recidivism, and increase an inmate’s chances of finding employment once released.

The majority of sites offer links to support services for inmates and their families, as well as information on prisoners’ rights.

And they keep up with the times. One service has recently incorporated social media such as Facebook and Twitter into its business.

Sister Helen Prejean, the anti-death penalty advocate and author of Dead Man Walking, began her activism after starting a pen-pal relationship with death row inmate Patrick Sonnier. Their letters sparked decades worth of anti-death penalty activism, a bestselling novel and Oscar-winning movie.

BC: Inmates at federal prison in Agassiz want to form a union

March 4th 2011

What do teachers, steelworkers and prisoners have in common? They’ll all be union members if inmates at a federal prison in Agassiz get their way.

The Mountain Institution inmates already have a name picked out: ConFederation.

Lawyer Natalie Dunbar is trying to help them organize. She says they’ve reached out to the Teamsters, BCGEU and the BC Federation of Labour so far.

Dunbar notes there aren’t enough resources at prisons to deal with jail issues and a union would help fix that. “As things become increasingly more crowded and difficult in prison, and the process of getting any recourse for any complaints that prisoners do have comes to basically a complete halt.”

The prison is on lockdown right now, so that’s slowed down the process a little. But Dunbar says the institution’s response has been reasonable.

Fund pathways to education, not to prison

March 4th 2011

For $5-million a year, the Conservative government has made an investment in young people that makes spectacular sense. It also undermines the logic of the government’s U.S.-style prison expansion, which will cost Ottawa nearly $1-billion a year, and the provinces about the same amount.

Pathways to Education, which will receive $20-million over four years, is a remarkable program devised by a community health centre in Toronto’s inner city. That program is a kind of neighbourhood watch for each and every high-schooler who might otherwise fall through the cracks. There is mandatory tutoring, for those whose marks fall below a certain threshold. There are mentors and support workers. There is financial aid – free transit tickets or lunches (whatever is needed to get a student to school) and $1,000 a year toward postsecondary tuition.

Its results are astonishing. It cut the dropout rate among 700 students from 56 per cent to 12 per cent, the Boston Consulting Group found in its assessment. It sent the rate of study in university or college to 80 per cent, from 20. (Most were the first in their family to go.) The assessment found a $600,000 lifetime benefit to society for each student in the program (and 93 per cent of eligible students were enrolled). The program is now in 11 locations in four provinces. It will be in 20 locations by 2016.

For $861-million, the size of the 36-per-cent annual corrections budget increase from 2009-10 to 2012-13, how many more investments like the one in Pathways could Canada make? How many more young people could be kept out of prisons by intervening in their lives at the right moment?

Ottawa’s wrong-headedness on prisons involves more than just money. The government is squandering its energies figuring out all the ways to keep people in prison longer. It should be focusing on fostering innovation and producing a more educated population, thereby keeping people out of prison.

The beauty of Pathways is that it came from a local community that understood how to foster self-sufficiency in the neediest young people. Ottawa should be beating the bushes to find more such programs. Why not a national fund of $100-million a year for the best social innovations aimed at reaching the most at-risk young people? (Take it from the prisons-expansion budget.)

Spending money to help troubled youth be productive makes so much more economic and human sense than building more prisons for them.

Prison guards face charges of repeatedly assaulting inmate

March 3rd 2011

Three correctional officers have been charged with assaulting an inmate at the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre.

Cameron Phillips, Daniel Mills and Lee Veenstra are charged in connection with an alleged assault against Jeffrey Chalifoux on May 10, 2010.

Chalifoux was serving time for a string of break and enters at commercial properties, said his lawyer, Erika Norheim.

He’s currently enrolled in Edmonton Drug Treatment & Community Restoration Court, a supervised treatment program for addicts arrested for non-violent offences that serves as an alternative to jail.

The alleged assault occurred after Chalifoux finished a private meeting with his lawyer, says a lawsuit filed on behalf of Chalifoux by Norheim’s law firm.

The lawsuit alleges Chalifoux was stripsearched inside a washroom after the meeting. During the search he was asked to “bend over and spread his cheeks,” at which point a guard kicked him from behind, the lawsuit alleges.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Chalifoux was then grabbed by the throat and berated by a guard before being ordered to return to his cell, the lawsuit says. On the walk back, he was attacked again from behind, tackled to the ground and then swarmed by several guards, the lawsuit says.

Chalifoux was then dragged to a prison van where he was repeatedly assaulted while the van drove around in circles before dropping him off at the shipping dock doors to the facility’s segregation unit, the lawsuit says.

Once inside, Chalifoux was put inside a closet and was again ordered to strip. After removing his clothes, the lawsuit says Chalifoux was punched in the testicles, knocking him to the ground. He was stood up again, and then punched a second time in the groin, after which four guards allegedly kicked him repeatedly.

The lawsuit says Chalifoux was beaten so badly that he lost control of his bladder, and was left lying on the floor in a pool of his own urine after the attack.

After being seen by a nurse, Chalifoux was placed in a cell in the segregation unit. The lawsuit says he was then threatened by guards and forced to sign a form declining police involvement in the incident. Chalifoux signed the form, fearing future attacks, the lawsuit says.

A statement of defence has not been filed. Chalifoux suffered significant bruising all over his body and head injuries as a result of the alleged assault, Norheim said.

She said Chalifoux was known to guards because he participated in a 2010 hunger strike against overcrowding and poor living conditions at the Edmonton Remand Centre, where he was an inmate at the time.

Phillips, Mills and Veenstra have each been charged with assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, threatening to cause serious bodily harm, and using threats of violence to get Chalifoux to sign a police waiver which he had a lawful right to abstain from doing.

“We’re pleased to see that the RCMP have proceeded with the charges in this manner,” Norheim said.

ON: Prison videos excluded from probe in girl’s death

March 1st 2011

Graphic surveillance videos showing 19-year-old Ashley Smith being forcibly constrained and given anti-psychotic drugs against her will at a Quebec prison three months before she fatally strangled herself in an Ontario prison cell will not be entered into evidence during a coroner’s inquest starting next month.

Motions submitted Tuesday by lawyers for the Smith family and the provincial advocate for children and youth questioned why Ontario deputy chief coroner Dr. Bonita Porter, who is leading the inquest, has yet to even obtain the videos from the Joliette Institution. Full written submissions are due March 3.

“The whole (Smith) family is upset,” said their lawyer, Julian Falconer. “What appeared to be an important stride forward into a full public airing of abuse has taken a whole different turn. It’s frankly, a most regrettable turn.”

Smith died in October 2007 after she choked herself with a piece of cloth at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont. It was later discovered that prison guards who watched the incident had been ordered not to intervene with the New Brunswick teen’s self-injurious behaviours. An expert report following her death also found that the teen may also not have committed suicide but had died by accident.

Smith had been incarcerated since the age of 15, when she was sent to prison for throwing crab apples at a postal worker in her hometown of Moncton, N.B. Her continued imprisonment was the result of racking up multiple charges while incarcerated.

The lengthy coroner’s inquest, slated to begin on April 4, is expected take six to nine months and will hear from 100 witnesses and experts.

Following days of hearings last fall, Porter had agreed to expand the scope of the inquest from the 13-week period Smith spent in Ontario to include the 11 months she spent in federal custody prior to her death.

During those months in federal prisons, Smith was transferred 17 times across the country due to bad behaviour, staff fatigue and overcrowding.

The videos taken over a three-day period in July 2007 at Quebec’s Joliette Institution document how Smith was heavily medicated with drugs against her will to prepare her for an upcoming prison transfer. Over the course of two hours, she was given four high-level injections despite showing no signs of delusions or psychotic behaviours.

Falconer said jurors will not get a clear understanding of Smith’s state of mind prior to her death if they are not shown the videos.

“Obviously videos are the best evidence of an incident. We don’t have to worry about the frailty of memory or the bias of witnesses,” said Richard Macklin, a lawyer who also submitted a motion on behalf of the Ontario child and youth advocate. “We should be allowed to look at the stark videos which will assist the jury in doing their functions.”

He cautioned that the exclusion of the videos was detrimental to jurors whose mandate is to possibly prevent similar deaths from occurring. At this point, it is unclear if witnesses from Joliette were even expected to testify about Smith’s incarceration.

“The inquest, on agreement of all parties, is about exploring incidences that may have impacted Ms. Smith’s state of mind on the day she died,” said Macklin. “And these events at Joliette . . . (include) videos that show severe ethical, clinical shortcomings in the way Ashley Smith was handled.”

Eric Siebenmorgen, a lawyer for the coroner, would not comment specifically Tuesday on why the videos have not been obtained.

In a statement, he said the coroner will take into account the written submissions once they are in later this week. A deadline has not been given on when Porter will make a decision on the videos.

BC: Bank robber back in jail on parole violation

February 18th 2011

Bank robber Stephen Reid has had his day parole revoked after he was found with thousands of contraband cigarettes during a traffic stop.

Reid, 60, was ordered back to jail on Nov. 6, 2010 but the National Parole Board provided no details as to why. His wife, Susan Musgrave, said at the time she thought her husband was arrested for showing up late for a urine test.

According to a written decision by the parole board, Reid was stopped on Oct. 26, 2010 for driving without insurance. Police found 18 clear plastic bags containing 3,600 contraband cigarettes from the U.S.

He also had a pill bottle containing Valium, the report said. Reid later admitted to parole officials that he was abusing prescription drugs and heroin. He also admitted to using another person’s urine during a drug test.

“You said you had been a drug addict for 41 years and did not know what to do to stop,” the parole board said.

Reid was released on day parole in January 2008 after serving almost half of his 18-year prison sentence for his part in a bank robbery in Victoria.

He was given strict conditions, including that he spend five nights a week in a halfway house, abstain from drugs and alcohol, stay away from anyone involved in criminal activity or substance abuse, and participate in substance-abuse programs and counselling.

The report from the parole board said Reid and Musgrave had travelled to Toronto to meet a foreign film production company that was considering making a documentary on Reid’s life of crime. Reid told the parole board he agreed to this because the documentary would likely not be shown in Canada and so he thought it would not affect his victims.

Reid was a member of the Stopwatch Gang, which carried out about 100 bank robberies in the 1970s and 1980s. The gang, which netted an estimated $15 million, used stopwatches to ensure every heist was complete in under two minutes.

One of their first scores was in 1974, when they made off from Ottawa airport with $750,000 worth of gold bullion that had been headed for the Royal Canadian Mint.

After a robbery in Victoria in 1999, Reid was charged with a host of charges, including attempted murder. He walked into the Royal Bank on Cook Street carrying a sawn-off shotgun. He stole $92,924 and escaped in a getaway car.

The vehicle sped through Beacon Hill Park and James Bay, with Reid hanging out of the passenger window, shooting at police officers and an innocent bystander.

Musgrave and Reid were married in 1986 while he was in prison. When Reid was on day parole, the couple split their time between homes in North Saanich and Haida Gwaii.

Reid will have his parole reviewed after one year.

BC: Kelowna no longer location for provincial prison

February 17th 2011

The City of Kelowna is out of the running as a location for a proposed new provincial correctional centre.

And that announcement came as good news for those looking to bring the proposed provincial prison to the South Okanagan.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General indicated this week that government-owned land specifically zone for a prison in north Kelowna — across from Lake Country and the Okanagan Indian Reserve — will not be used for the facility, despite 15 years of speculation that it would be.

“It’s critical that local governments and citizens be part of selecting a site for this new secure custody centre,” said a representative for the ministry. “That’s why we’ve asked local governments to forward recommendations so that we can ensure we find the best site, one that has community support and meets all of the project criteria.”

According to Lake Country Mayor James Baker, opposition to the prison from the Okanagan Indian Band “was the major factor in the decision” to rule out the Kelowna location, as were concerns from Lake Country that local roads and services would be impacted negatively without the district receiving any of the financial benefits from Victoria.

It is not a stance the local governments in the south of the valley and beyond appear to share with their counterparts to the north.

With a recent unanimous vote from the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen to support a bid to bring the facility to the area, along with an anticipated vote this Monday from the Penticton Indian Band and support from Summerland council, Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton said he believes the collective push to have the prison built here is a result of local leaders believing that every community will benefit.

“I think it is incredibly important that we will all work together and we do it regionally,” said Ashton. “I know that we are all working hard to do that and I think that is important because in my opinion this is an opportunity to bring the four entities together, in no specific order: the regional district, Summerland, the City of Penticton and the Penticton Indian Band, and show the province the we are both committed and that we can all work together for the benefit of all. Because it doesn’t matter where it goes, we are all going to benefit from this if it comes here.”

Currently, the Village of Lumby is also pursuing the prison and will hold a referendum April 30 to gauge voters’ support. Ashton said Penticton has no plans to do the same.

“We have seen a lot of community support for this,” said Ashton. “We got elected by the people because a change was required and they wanted us to make decisions. So I think it is really important that when we have an opportunity in a short timeframe to bring a government facility like this to the region, that we do make decisions in a timely manner and that is what we are doing.

“We are going to go full bore on this as a region.”

BC: Signs point to “no jail in Lumby”

February 16th 2011

With a community divided, one resident of the Lumby area wants people to know where she, and many in the community stand on a proposed jail.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, erected two signs on her property on Mable Lake Road recently.

‘Prison Town Formally Known As Lumby. Population 720 Inmates Or More,’ reads one.

‘Take Your Prison & Shove It,’ reads the other.

It isn’t hard to know just where she stands.

“We feel it’s wrong for our community. It’s tearing our community apart,” says the woman we’ll call Wendy.

“Businessmen are fighting against businessmen, friends are fighting against friends and families are fighting within their own families about it. It’s not something that we need, we need to look at other options.”

Wendy says she agrees the area needs something to breath new life into it but believes a jail is not it.

She says Mayor Kevin Acton and the rest of council are focused only on the jail and nothing else.

“With the prison comes other problems. We’re going to have visitors in town visiting prisoners, what kind of people are they? Are they going to be bringing drugs? Do I have to stand in the corner grocery store and hold onto my purse because it may be another gang member?”

“Where is their garbage going to go. What about the water, are farmers going to have to give up some of their crops for the prisoners?”

Wendy says it’s infrastructure and not the potential for prisoners escaping that concerns her.

She also worried about the reputation of the community.

“Vernon and Lumby have always had a rivalry, the kids have. They call it Scumby Lumby, now it’s going to be Scumby Lumby with a prison.”

Lumby residents will vote in a referendum to decide whether to pursue the jail.

Council was expected to come up with a date, likely April 30, at a special meeting held Tuesday night.

Wendy says she fears Lumby could become a ghost town if the jail comes to town.

“People think Lumby is going to be a ghost town if we don’t get the prison. Well, I tell you, I know lots of people who will move if it does come.”

Huguette Allen a member of ‘Concerned Citizens Of Lumby And Area,’ says the issue has divided the community so much some people are afraid to speak their mind.

“It is getting to be uncomfortable for a lot of people. The more uncomfortable it gets the more people are afraid to say how they feel,” says Allen.

“Those of us who are really concerned about this really feel that the very opposite should be happening. That’s going to be a very important decision and if we’re afraid to speak out, afraid to say how we feel, afraid to say why we don’t want it then we won’t get the right answers.”

Allen says she believes things are destructive and not constructive.

“We had one rally outside and subsequent to that rally people went to public places, pubs and whatever and were told by small groups of people that are pro-prison that they were a bunch of crazies and things like that.”

She says people are being verbally abused while they are shopping, sworn at. Allen says it’s not healthy for the community.

Mayor Acton, who proposed the jail when Solicitor General Rich Coleman announced the province would build a facility somewhere in the Okanagan by 2015, says he’s hearing from people on both sides of the issue.

While he defends councils desire to move ahead with the jail, Acton also acknowledges the community is split, just how split he isn’t sure.

As for people berating friends and neighbours, Acton has a simple message.

“Hopefully people will grow up. We’re all adults and we should be able to have adult conversations and freely express our opinions,” says Acton.

“I certainly don’t fear going anywhere in the community or going to any meetings. If people are picking on their neighbours and giving them dirty looks I really hope we see a little more maturity on what’s going on, collect information and wait for the vote. Don’t judge people one way or another.”

QC: Prison guards hold protests outside two jails

February 16th 2011

MONTREAL – Prison guards in the 18 provincially run detention centres in Quebec are looking for more money and more vacation time.

They have been staging work-to-rule campaigns and other pressure tactics to push negotiations along. The guards, who work at Tanguay and Bordeaux jails, among others, have been without a contract since March 31.

They held a demonstration Tuesday outside Orsainville prison, north of Quebec City, and another outside the detention facility in Riviere des Prairies.

The guards, who are part of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, number 2,300 and work in facilities in Hull, Sherbrooke, Sept Iles and St. Jerome, as well as at Montreal’s courthouse. The current maximum annual salary for a prison guard in the provincial system is about $56,000; those who work in the federal prison system make about $70,000.

The provincial guards want their salaries to be comparable and want extra vacation days, said Jean-Pierre Larche of the CSN.

The guards, who get a maximum five weeks vacation after 25 years of service, want an extra day of vacation for every year of employment after that, up to 30 years.

The union has said a strike is possible if no deal on a new contract can be struck with the Public Security Department.

Tory crime bill passes with Bloc support

February 16th 2011

The Bloc Québécois has helped the Conservatives pass a contentious crime bill that would eliminate early parole eligibility for non-violent offenders.

The Bloc backed the Harper government’s Bill C-59, which easily passed the House of Commons by a vote of 184 to 105 on Wednesday.

The Liberals and NDP opposed the bill, but the Bloc support moves the legislation to the Conservative-controlled Senate.

The bill eliminates a convict’s right to apply for parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence for non-violent crimes such as fraud.

The Bloc says it has long favoured such legislation, and supported the Tory bill because of high-profile fraud cases in Quebec, including the conviction of disgraced financier Earl Jones.

Under the bill, convicted fraudsters and other non-violent criminals must now serve one-third of their sentences before seeking parole.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said his party couldn’t back the bill because it does nothing to help defrauded victims get their money back.

“We think this Bloc-Conservative coalition … is the worst abuse of Parliament I’ve seen in a very long time,” said Ignatieff.

Ignatieff said the bill would affect only 1,500 prisoners but would add $130 million to Canada’s prison tab.

The Quebec bar has advised the Liberals that the bill is unconstitutional, he said.

Legislation passed ending early parole for murderers

February 15th 2011

The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, today welcomed the passage by Parliament of Bill S-6, the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act. This legislation repeals the “faint-hope clause” that allows murderers to obtain early parole.

“Our Government is taking action to ensure murderers serve serious time for the most serious crime,” said Minister Nicholson. “This legislation will end the anguish suffered by victims’ families attending repeated early parole hearing. Those who have been victimized should not have to relive their losses over and over again.”

Eliminating the faint-hope clause ensures that criminals who commit first-degree murder are not eligible for parole until they serve the full 25 years of their sentence. Similarly, offenders serving life imprisonment for second-degree murder are no longer eligible for parole until their parole ineligibility period is served, which could be up to 25 years.

“Our government is taking further action to protect the rights of victims of crime”, said Senator Boisvenu. “We believe the justice system must not put the rights of criminals ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens. We will continue to support victims of crime and promote the ‘truth in sentencing’ that Canadians want.”

The Act will come into force at a time to be determined. Once this occurs, offenders who commit murder on or after the date the bill comes into force will no longer be able to apply to be eligible for early parole under the faint-hope regime and those who are currently serving their life sentence or awaiting sentence will face tougher rules when they apply.

An online version of the legislation will be available at www.parl.gc.ca

Feds reject bid to send more inmates to federal prisons

February 15th 2011

The Harper government has rejected a push by the provinces to relieve the pressure on their overburdened corrections systems by having Ottawa assume responsibility for the longest-serving provincial prisoners.

A report commissioned by the provinces called the Changing Face of Corrections says the best way to deal with the explosion in the number of people on remand – those waiting to be sentenced – is to hand inmates serving more than six months behind bars over to federal control.

In return for offloading the prisoners who are serving longer sentences to federal penitentiaries, the report says provinces would assume responsibility for the entire parole system, including those prisoners who have been released from federal custody.

But Ottawa says it has no intention of changing the existing regime, which appears to date back to the 17th century and requires provincial and territorial correctional centres to handle everyone sentenced to less than two years behind bars.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, surfaces as the Liberal opposition has begun to reject Conservative justice policies, touching off a political battle that could become a central issue in an election campaign if a vote is called this spring. The law-and-order file is not only controversial because of ideology and cost, but because the  Conservatives refuse to provide information on how much it will cost to implement legislation to lengthen prison sentences and reduce parole.

Provincial discontent over jails also comes at a time when the two levels of government are negotiating two major financial policies – the health accord, which expires in 2014 and determines how much the federal government contributes to health care, and federal equalization payments to provinces.

The provinces and territories have been reluctant to discuss the corrections proposal publicly as they try to negotiate a rebalancing of the corrections system, which has grown with the enactment of tougher federal justice legislation they have largely supported.

They have refused to release the 2009 document through their freedom-of-information acts and warned people who have received a copy that it must not be shared with reporters. At the same time, they continue to push the federal government to bear more of the weight of the corrections system.

“The recommendation suggesting prisoners sentenced to six months or more should serve time in a federal institution is under review,” Felix Collins, Newfoundland’s Justice Minister, said in an e-mail on Tuesday.

In Ontario, Joe Kim, a spokesman for Jim Bradley, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said the province “will continue to participate in debate on this recommendation should it arise at the FPT level [a federal-provincial-territorial meeting].”

Written by Neil McCrank, the former chair of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and a former Alberta justice minister, as well as other corrections experts including Anthony Doob, who teaches at the University of Toronto, the report stems from a meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers in 2007.

All parties at that meeting agreed that the situation in provincial and territorial systems was changing dramatically and needed to be studied. The remand population, which is historically smaller than the sentenced population, was climbing year after year and had surpassed the number of sentenced prisoners even as crime rates were falling.

Provincial facilities were creaking at the seams.

But, when the provinces said they wanted to take another look at getting rid of the “two-year rule,” the federal government said it would not be part of the study. The provinces, which provided a steering committee made up of deputy ministers of corrections, decided to carry on without Ottawa’s participation.

The remand population started to increase well before the Conservatives took office federally, said Prof. Doob, who was among those who refused to give the report to The Globe. But the slate of crime bills that have been passed by Parliament since 2006 have added prisoners. “Everything adds,” he said.

In 1978, the average daily number of people being held by the provinces and territories in pre-sentence custody was 3,030. By 2005, 27 years later, it had tripled to 10,754. And, three years after that, in 2008, it had ballooned to 13,507.

That has created crowded conditions and necessitated triple-bunking in the provincial systems. More important, according to the report’s authors, it means large numbers of prisoners are “sitting in limbo” because, with so many inmates serving short sentences, remedial programs become impractical at the provincial level.

Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said adjusting the corrections system to send inmates with sentences of six months or more to federal penitentiaries would require an amendment to the Canadian Constitution – something that is not being considered.

Mr. Toews said his government is, in fact, picking up some of the costs of remand prisoners because of its new law that ended the practice of giving prisoners double credit for the amount of time they served before sentencing.

“What we are seeing is people leaving the provincial institutions as they plead guilty and are then sentenced into federal time,” he said. “So what we’re seeing is a gradual shift onto the federal institutions and an alleviation of some of the pressure on the provinces.”

But Prof. Doob said the federal government actually got that law wrong and the huge numbers of inmates who are sentenced to less than two years will actually be spending more time in provincial custody, not less.

Feds should come clean on prison costs

February 12th 2011

The Harper government’s secrecy about the costs of its law-and-order legislation leaves it looking either incompetent or undemocratic.

And whatever the explanation, the failure betrays the basic conservative principles the party espoused in seeking office.

The crime legislation will mean higher costs. Mandatory minimum sentences and the elimination of two-forone credit for pre-trial jail time will mean more people will be locked up for longer periods.

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, the independent officer who scrutinizes government’s financial plans, estimates that eliminating the two-for-one credit alone would mean an extra 4,200 people in jail at any given time, about a 12 per cent increase.

The cost -for prison construction and operations -would add about $2 billion to the federal budget and $3 billion to provincial expenditures.

The government disagrees. But it has also refused to release its estimates of the cost of the crime measures, claiming they are cabinet secrets.

That’s ridiculous. The public paid for the cost estimates to be prepared. Taxpayers will pay for the prisons. They have a right to know how much, so they can decide if the investment is worthwhile and communicate their views.

And MPs -including Conservative MPs -certainly have a right to know what the cost will be before they vote on the legislation. Keeping the information secret attacks the right of members of Parliament to do their basic job of deciding if legislation is in the public interest.

MPs might, after considering the costs of new prisons and more guards, still conclude the legislation was in the public interest. Or they might conclude that the U.S. has proven that locking up more and more citizens does nothing to reduce crime rates while costing taxpayers billions.

The government’s secrecy is an abuse of the public and Parliament -including Conservative MPs -that makes it impossible for elected representatives to do one of their most fundamental jobs: Ensuring the public’s money is spent wisely.

Stephen Harper promised accountability, openness, a functioning democracy and competent decision-making based on facts. His government is violating every one of those principles with this secrecy.

MB: Expansion Opens at Brandon Correctional Centre

February 1st 2011

The capacity to house more inmates at Brandon Correctional Centre has increased after a newly-added expansion.

The new low- to medium-security building adds 84 beds, making the facility to hold 248 inmates from 164.

The centre accommodates both sentenced inmates and those awaiting trial, and has small units to house female and youth offenders.

Construction was announced by the province shortly after an October 2009 riot at the jail, where inmates caused thousands of dollars in damage.

The new building cost approximately $5.7 million and includes four sub-units with dormitory-style accommodations. Construction is also underway on new kitchen facilities to accommodate the increase in the population and a new fence is being added to improve the overall security of the facility.

Refugee Dies in Toronto West Detention Centre

January 25th 2011

An inquest has been called into the death of a Roma refugee in Toronto West Detention Centre.

Jan Szamko, 31, died on Dec. 8, 2009, two days after he was supposed to have been deported to the Czech Republic. An autopsy concluded he died of a pre-existing heart condition.

Paul St. Clair of Toronto’s Roma Community Centre learned Tuesday from the Ontario Coroner’s Office that an inquest will be held on March 31.

“The main issue is what happened to this fellow. He was taken into a flight, then something happened there and he was taken back to the detention centre,” St. Clair said.

Dungeons & Dragons: A Threat to Prison Security

Reposted from geeksaresexy.net/

January 25th 2011

Sometime you read a story and it takes a lot of re-reading and double checking before you can bring yourself to accept it truly is legitimate. This is one of those stories.

The seventh circuit of the United States Court of Appeals has just published a ruling on a case heard last September. Let us peruse the opening line and consider whether this may be the greatest legal ruling in history:

After concluding that the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (“D&D”) represented a threat to prison security, officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution took action to eradicate D&D within the prison’s wall.

Yes, you read that right. This is a ruling on whether or not prison officials were justified in confiscating D&D material. It wasn’t a case of officials being concerned that multi-faceted dice could be fashioned into weapons (only “twenty-one books, fourteen magazines” and handwritten notes were confiscated), but an even more serious matter:

Waupun’s long-serving Disruptive Group Coordinator, Captain Bruce Muraski, received an anonymous letter from an inmate. The letter expressed concern that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D gang and were trying to recruit others to join by passing around their D&D publications and touting the “rush” they got from playing the game.

The prisoner concerned, Kevin Singer, complained the confiscation was a violation of first amendment rights. He then, in the words of the court, sought “a panoply of relief”, which sadly turned out not to be a D&D spell.

Singer maintains that rather than D&D playing encouraging gang activity, it actually deters prisoners from joining gangs.

After losing the case, Singer took it to appeal. There, an expert on prison gangs argued not only that having a Dungeon Master issue direction to other players “mimics the organization of a gang”, but that the game encourages players to become obsessed with mentally escaping the restrictions of prison life, which could threaten “the safety and security of the institution.”

Although Singer produced witness testimony from 11 other inmates who said they had never heard of D&D leading to gang-related activity, the judges at the appeal ruled this was irrelevant: all that mattered was that it was reasonable for the prison officials to believe it might do so in the future.

And what is the evidence for this argument? Well, in a 2009 case, a prison gang leader “established and enforced rules.” You know, just like in D&D. And hell, there’s even a risk of “D&D players looking to Dungeon Masters, rather than to the prison’s own carefully constructed hierarchy of authority, for guidance and dispute resolution.”

In any case, the judges noted, the prison wasn’t banning all books or games. After all, in a 2005 case when some games were banned, ” strategy games like Risk, Stratego, chess, and checkers remained available to prisoners.”

In conclusion, the judges pointed out that Singer had failed in his duty to prove conclusively that D&D could not lead to gang activity. (Which may be because even the most creative role-player can’t prove a future negative.)

The court therefore rejected the appeal.

ON: Toronto South Detention Centre – Prefab Prison

January 23rd 2010

Two by two by two they rise, lifted and put in place by a massive crane.

This is construction inspired by Duplo, precast concrete modules — with two jail cells per — laid out in neat rows and stacked into towers.

It’s not quite prison-in-a-kit, but it’s close: a “habitat” for human miscreants, some assembly required.

In a first for the province, if not the country, the new Toronto South Detention Centre in Mimico is being built almost entirely from prefabricated pieces, including hundreds of fully outfitted jail cells shipped by rail from Atlanta.

“You stack it up and the building’s basically done,” says Alan Munn, senior partner with Zeidler Partnership Architects.

The units come complete with windows, doors, lights, wiring and fully plumbed toilets and sinks.

“These are facilities that get a lot of abuse, so they have to be extremely durable,” says Munn.

Prison building is, not surprisingly, a huge niche market in the United States, which is why Zeidler turned to South Carolina-based Tindall Corp., a private company that has done nearly 200 prefab prisons south of the border.

Tindall’s standard module contains two jail cells, with each cell measuring 85 square feet and laid out as a mirror image of the adjacent one, although Zeidler has tweaked both the size and configuration to conform to provincial tastes and building codes.

Given the climate, for instance, the beds aren’t stacked on an outside wall as they would be in a typical prefabricated cell.

When it’s completed in the fall of 2012 as a replacement for the 19th-century Don Jail, the $600 million facility will boast three seven-storey towers and a total of 1,650 beds.

Although principally a maximum-security complex, it will also include a new Toronto Intermittent Centre for those serving weekend sentences.

Such modular assembly — of which Moshe Safdie’s Habitat for Expo 67 in Montreal still stands as a sterling example — has long intrigued both architects and the construction industry.

The attractions are many.

There’s the relative speed and ease of assembly, for one, plus a big reduction in the amount of on-site waste.

And having the modules built elsewhere in a controlled-environment factory both helps with quality control and removes the seasonal vagaries of weather.

In the case of Tindall’s jail cells, the precast, concrete modules are also strong and integrated enough that they can be load-bearing.

“There’s no need to build big frames,” says Cory Paterson, one of the company’s technical sales representatives.

While the firm has looked into using similar modules for hotels and military barracks, it has yet to construct any.

So, at least for now, it’s mostly prisons by Duplo, which seems to hold an additional, prurient attraction for otherwise law-abiding onlookers, says Paterson.

“For some reason, when our modules roll into town, they get a lot of attention.”

“It’s amazing to watch how a facility like this goes up,” agrees Bruce Gray, a vice-president at Infrastructure Ontario, who has also been known to visit the site at least in part for its Boy’s Own entertainment value.

“You’re not watching it one stick at a time. It’s going up in blocks.”

BC: Prison Proposal Put to the Public

January 20th 2010

There are not many people who don’t have an opinion on whether they want a prison built in their community.

That is why city council decided to hold its special public meeting to discuss the idea of trying to bring a proposed correctional facility to the Penticton area at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre instead of smaller venues such as City Hall’s council chambers or perhaps at suggested-warden Coun. Mike Pearce’s house.

The town-hall style meeting, which will be open to all members of the public, will take place on Monday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.

Last year, Solicitor General Rich Coleman announced the provincial government is seeking a site in the Okanagan to build a new 360-cell correctional centre for use starting in 2015. And earlier this year, council voted to begin a public consultation process to see whether Penticton residents have an appetite for pursuing the centre.

Proponents, such as Pearce, assert the centre would provide both short- and long-term economic benefits to Penticton; whereas, opponents say they don’t want a prison in their community.

The Jan. 31 meeting will provide an opportunity for residents to learn more about the proposed correctional centre and to share their feedback with council and city staff, according to city CAO Annette Antoniak,

“We will have a facilitator there and we will have a PowerPoint presentation on the information that we got from the ministry on the correctional centre, including the questions and answers that are most frequently asked,” said Antoniak. “It will also be a forum to allow the community to voice their opinion.”

“I think holding this meeting is important because clearly the community should be given the opportunity to come forward and provide their opinion as to whether they would want a correctional centre in their community.”

Antoniak said that from an economic point of view, the proposed prison is something that the community should at the very least have the opportunity to consider.

“The jobs that we would see brought into the community would be incredible,” she said. “Just in the early stage of construction alone, it is estimated that that would be around $200 million. It is also something that would create long-term jobs.”

Antoniak said city staff are looking at sites both within and beyond Penticton’s boundaries

“I think the benefit would be to the entire region. So at this time, we are looking at several different locations that could accommodate the 20 acres (required by the province),” she said. “At this point, the public meeting will not be site specific. What we are looking at is to get the community engaged in the process first.”

A fact sheet will be drafted by the city in the near future, she added.

“I really want to encourage people to come out,” said Antoniak, noting that residents can also participate online via newly established Facebook and Twitter accounts if they are not able to make it to the meeting.

“We are very interested in everybody’s voice being heard.”

BC: Kamloops wants women’s prison

January 20th 2011

As communities throughout the Interior fight for or against a new provincial jail for men in their town, Kamloops intends to roll out a welcome mat for a women’s jail.

The city is planning to lobby the provincial government to build a remand centre for women here.

A motion, which was brought forward by Coun. Nancy Bepple, will be presented to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Souther Interior Local Government Association.

The motion noted when women in the Interior require remand, they are either held in local RCMP cells or transferred to the Lower Mainland and housed in the Alouette Correctional Centre.

Bepple contends the women are removed from families and support systems in their own communities, reducing the opportunities to rebuild their lives in a safe environment — also putting them at risk to reoffend.

It’s an idea that received unanimous support from city council.

Coun. John O’Fee said people need to understand RCMP holding cells are just that, and not meant for long-term custody.

“We do treat people in a reasonable fashion in remand centres,” he said, adding the centres tend to have basic social facilities.

Coun. Marg Spina said it’s important to put the idea forward, suggesting it may not be something the province realizes is needed.

One solution is to build an addition to Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.

The province has for several years been looking to add a new prison for men in the Interior, but hasn’t yet decided on a location.

MB: man injured in prison riot sues feds

January 17th 2011

WINNIPEG — A former Stony Mountain Institution inmate is suing the federal government, alleging prison staff were slow to come to his aid after he was seriously injured in a prison riot.

Brandon, Man., resident Timothy Elliott, 37, alleges he suffered permanent disabling injuries in the Jan. 10, 2009 riot.

“He’s still suffering from the effects and is not working regularly,” said Elliott’s lawyer Ian MacNair.

According to the lawsuit, Elliott was moving from one area of the prison to another “when a number of inmates began to riot … and (Elliott) was stabbed multiple times” and beaten about the head and body.

Corrections staff “were alerted to the disturbance, but did not intervene immediately to stop it, or to assist (Elliott),” the lawsuit alleges. “Instead, (Elliott) was left lying on the floor of the institution, bleeding from his injuries.”

Elliott was taken to Health Sciences Centre in critical condition. He was treated for his injuries and later returned to prison.

Elliott’s injuries included stab wounds to his back and shoulders, damage to his lungs and bruises to his head and body.

“There were a number of steps (staff) could have taken to stop it or mitigate it once it had started,” MacNair said.

Elliott alleges the prison failed to take “reasonable measures” to protect him from attack and did not provide staff with adequate riot training.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

MacNair said the riot is still under investigation

Prior court proceedings have suggested the riot was sparked by a gang-on-gang attack.

Super-prisons: coming soon…

January 11th 2010

A federal cabinet minister said Monday it’s premature to speculate where a new super prison will be located.

“There is a long-term plan being developed in the CSC now,” Minister of State Gordon O’Connor said at Pittsburgh Institution.

“It’s not completed. I wouldn’t know any of the details and I have no idea how it affects this area.”

O’Connor said the government is committed to adding 2,700 new beds in the prison system in a $2 billion initiative.

“Beyond that there is a plan being developed in the CSC now for the long-term because some prisons have been around for so long they have to be replaced.”

As far as the prison farms are concerned, however, O’Connor said the issue is decided.

“We’re not going back on it,” O’Connor said. “We have debated this issue. We have debated it in our caucus. We have listened to the arguments back and forth. The cabinet has decided they are not going back on it.

“It’s done. Prison farms will be closed and the CSC is finding other venues now for training people.”

He repeated the government’s claim that only one per cent of inmates going through the prison farms found employment on a farm.

“Net, it cost us money,” he said, “(and) we are always looking for ways to save money.

“The prison system now is under strain because they have to expand the system. They have to find every dollar. Well, the $4 million we are losing on farms can go back into the prison system to help improve other areas.”

Details for new federal spending on prison expansion

January 10th 2010

OTTAWA – Details of prison spending announced Monday:

Quebec: $73 million (192 beds at Cowansville Institution, 96 beds at Donnacona Institution)

Alberta and Saskatchewan: $55 million (96 beds at Edmonton Institution, 50 beds at River Bend Institution in Prince Albert, Sask., 50 beds at Will Cree Institution outside Saskatoon)

Ontario: $30 million (50 beds each at Frontenac and Pittsburgh institutions in Kingston, Ont., 50 new beds at Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont.)

TOTAL: $158 million (634 beds)

$10 million to expand Prince Albert’s Riverbend Institution

January 10th 2010

The federal government has announced it is spending $10 million to expand the Riverbend Institution in Prince Albert. A 50-bed security unit will be added, increasing the number of inmates the institution can hold to 176.

“I think that is very positive for Riverbend and CSC (Correctional Service of Canada) in general. There’s a need for minimal security bed spaces, and we certainly have the capacity in terms of space to accommodate that,” said Wanita Koczka, deputy warden for the Riverbend Institution. Riverbend is a minimum security prison, where inmates are offered various programs, such as educational improvement and development courses. The government is also spending $10 million to expand the Willow Cree Healing Lodge at Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. Member of Parliament for Prince Albert, Randy Hoback, explained why the government is expanding these facilities. “With movement in two pieces of legislation, C-2 and C-25, there is going to be more need for more spaces and more bed spaces to house these criminals,” said Hoback. The bills will see a mandatory sentence for crimes committed with firearms, as well as getting rid of the rule where people receive two days for every day served while awaiting trial. The work on Riverbend Institution is scheduled to be complete between 2012 and 2013.

ON: Bank robber sues for cruelty in prison

January 2nd 2011

KINGSTON, Ont. — An imprisoned career criminal who shot three police officers in a bloody bank heist 16 years ago has been given the go-ahead by Canada’s top court to pursue a claim for damages based on allegations he’s been treated cruelly in prison.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mitchell McArthur of Kingston could ask Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to consider his claim. The attorney general argued that McArthur couldn’t pursue his claim until he took his complaint first to the Federal Court of Canada.

“A textual, contextual and purposive interpretation of the Federal Courts Act does not support the view that a plaintiff who claims to have suffered compensable loss as a result of an administrative decision must first have the lawfulness of the decision determined by the Federal Court,” the Supreme Court decision states.

“Further, the Federal Courts Act does not prevent provincial superior court scrutiny of the constitutionality of the conduct of federal officials.”

The decision is a significant victory for McArthur, who has been battling federal authorities for years.

He is a notorious figure in Kingston, where a murder accusation still hangs over him. Kingston Police charged him in the disappearance of Tom Gencarelli, 24, who vanished in 1982.

Gencarelli’s body has never been found, but police say they’re certain he was slain.

The murder charge against McArthur was dropped in 1998 when a key Crown witness died before a trial could be held.

McArthur’s national notoriety was inflated in 1994 when he staged a bloody bank heist.

On Oct. 20, two masked bandits stormed into the Bank of Montreal branch in Port Perry, Ont., north of Oshawa, Ont. When the bank manager didn’t immediately comply with an order to open the safe, McArthur shot the man in the leg.

When police arrived, McArthur unleashed a fusillade of bullets from an assault rifle. Two officers were hit in the face, the third shot in the arm.

McArthur and his accomplice fled with $50,000. They took a man in his 70s hostage and forced him to drive the pair to a stashed getaway car.

Heavily armed tactical officers who burst into Kingston, Ont., homes the next morning and arrested McArthur and his younger brother, Angus.

McArthur was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison for four counts of attempted murder and a slew of other charges, bringing his total of criminal convictions to more than 160 in a career that began in 1968.

The Crown appealed and his punishment was boosted to life in prison.

McArthur’s brother was acquitted. A bid to have Mitchell McArthur declared a dangerous offender failed.

McArthur alleges in his lawsuit that he was tossed into solitary confinement for roughly four and a half years after his conviction for the bank robbery. He alleges that he was put into solitary at maximum-security Millhaven Institution for 18 months and was kept in solitary for another 14 months when he was transferred to Kingston Penitentiary.

He spent another four months in isolation after his transfer to the super-secure Special Handling Unit at Ste. Anne des Plaines, Que., he claims.

McArthur complains that the confinement was “arbitrary and constituted cruel and unusual punishment.”

“He claimed to have suffered severe emotional and psychological injury and harm,” according to the Supreme Court decision. “He also alleged that the decisions to place him in solitary confinement were made deliberately and maliciously or negligently.”

McArthur claims he was denied private family visits “routinely granted to other inmates whose circumstances (were) similar” as well as schooling, rehabilitation programs and “inmate leisure activities.” He claims that his confinement caused his wife and daughter to suffer severe emotional and psychological harm because they were denied regular contact with him.

McArthur was out of prison on automatic early release when he committed the Port Perry, Ont., holdup. He has escaped from Collins Bay in Kingston, Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Millhaven.

After his breakout from Millhaven in 1984, McArthur pulled at least three bank robberies over a span of 14 months before he was recaptured.

In 1990, he wrote an autobiography, I’d Rather be Wanted than Had, the Memoirs of an Unrepentant Bank Robber.

In 2005, the National Parole Board turned down his request for release, noting the violence of the 1994 holdup.

“You expressed remorse over your criminal behaviour today despite file information indicating that you have minimized these offences,” states the written record of his parole hearing.

“You agreed that your actions could have easily resulted in the death of your victims.”

The board rejected McArthur’s claim that the robbery was a “spur of the moment thing.” When the Ontario Court of Appeal boosted his sentence to life, it characterized the crime as the product of a “careful plan implemented with deadly detachment and efficiency.”

McArthur has been diagnosed with an anti-social personality disorder. Psychiatric reports support his designation as a dangerous offender, according to the 2005 parole document.

McArthur waived his right to a parole hearing in May 2010 and another hearing is tentatively scheduled for 2012.

McArthur has changed his name to Michiel McArthur Hollinger.

New Year’s Eve 2011: actions against the prison world

“This noise demo was organized to express solidarity with prisoners and break the isolation that is both a requirement and a function of prisons and corrections.”

“Prison walls are supposed to impose isolation. Instead, the meaning of those walls was subverted, they became a meeting place and a vehicle of communication.”

“2011: year of the breakout!”
-Anarchists

What follows is a compilation of actions carried out around the world against all prisons and the world that needs them. We think they speak for themselves, and do a fine job ringing in the new year…

January 1st 2010

Bristol, England (UK) – “January the First. Anarchists saw in the new year 2011 with attacks on both Newfoundland road police station and the probation office on Upper York street using easily found stones. With our action, we breathe revolutionary solidarity for the next year and beyond to all those engaged in struggle against the state and capitalism in whatever forms across the planet. we especially think of those behind bars who became rebels and have risen up and burned Ford prison. we identify with them, as it would seem we both wish for jails to become ashes in this moment… Love & rage across borders, until every wall falls.”

A riot at Ford prison (UK) on January 1st left much of the prison in ruins, after prisoners set fire to several structures and fought against the riot police.

December 31st 2010

Hamilton, Ontario Several dozen people gathered for the second annual New Years Eve noise demo outside Barton Jail. Among the chanting, there were fireworks set off for the prisoners on both east and west sides of the jail. A banner with a mailing address painted on it was held to invite prisoners to correspond with us. The wall of the jail was spray-painted with “TEAR THIS SHIT DOWN.” A speech was read on both sides of the jail, expressing solidarity with prisoners and explaining reasons for struggling against prison. Solidarity was expressed to the prisoners who were on strike in Georgia, Roger Clement, G20 defendants in custody, and non-status migrants being held at Barton Jail. The Passion for Freedom is Stronger than all Prisons!

Toronto, Ontario – A noise demonstration took place at the Toronto Jail (ex-Don Jail) in Toronto. Around 50 people gathered around the prison, chanted slogans, and shot off fireworks. No prisons, no borders, fuck law and order!

Montreal, Quebec – About 20 people marched past two federal prisons and an immigration detention centre in Laval, while igniting flares and fireworks, chanting slogans, and handing out leaflets. Both of the federal prisons that were visited were included in a wave of prison expansions announced by the government this past fall. This was the third noise demo held at these prisons in the last six months. One noise demo was held in August on Prisoner Justice Day, and another was held in November in response to the cutting of visiting hours at one of the prisons. Our presence outside the walls of these institutions, in conflict with the desires of the screws, policy-makers, and police, opens up avenues of solidarity, through which we seek to develop relationships, both with prisoners and outsiders, with whom we share an opposition to bars and guards and the world that needs and maintains them.

Vancouver, British ColumbiaA demonstration was held at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre (FRCC) in Maple Ridge. About 25 people arrived at the prison in a rented bus. They walked up close to the fences blaring music towards a temporary outdoor prison wing being used until they open a new prison wing. A banner read “Against All Prisons, For Freedom.” Demonstrators shot off fireworks and flares. Sparklers were also raised with helium balloons, and people chanted “The passion for freedom is stronger than all prisons,” “fuck prison,” and “no borders no nations, stop deportation.” People also shouted “happy New Year” to the prisoners. We want you to know that while everyone else tonight is celebrating another year in the prison world, we are here to celebrate a future without prisons… Fuck the system! Fuck the screws! Fuck Canada!

SOLIDARITY WITH OUR IMPRISONED COMRADES ROGER CLEMENT, JOHN GRAHAM AND ALEX HUNDERT! SOLIDARITY WITH ALL PRISONERS WHO WANT TO BREAK THEIR CHAINS!

New York City, NY (USA) – A demonstration took place outside of the Metropolitan Correction Centre in downtown Manhattan. People chanted and made noise with noise makers and horns. Banners were displayed, one of which read: “destroy all prisons.” 2011 will commence with a bang, and set the mood for what will be will be a year of intensifying struggle and a celebration of resistance!

Richmond, VA (USA) – Seven people made noise in from of the Richmond City Jail. Starting off the New Year in the middle of a demo sets a tone for me that I hope will continue.

Tacoma, WA (USA) – About 10 anarchists gathered in front of the Pierce County Jail. They played anti-police hip-hop from a small sound system, shouted slogans, and banged black flags against the metal fence surrounding the jail. Some people reacted positively to the demonstration, even when the police showed up to cause trouble. Noise demonstrations have happened every month for the past six months at this particular prison normally ending with us on the outside stopping the music and asking those on the inside to make some noise which we can luckily hear and which always fuels our rage at this rotten system.

St. Louis, MI (USA) – 35 people held a noise demonstration outside the Hogan Street Regional Youth Centre.  Just before midnight, demonstrators marched with torches to the former school-turned-prison,  then proceeded to shoot fireworks. There was chanting, leaflets were handed out, and two banners were hung to the fence of the detention centre: “Every jail is an abuse” and “2011: Year of the breakout.” In St. Louis city jails, which have also been the sites of individual and collective escapes, the pigs have been callously denying needed medical attention resulting in several deaths. This fact was on all of our minds that night along side the unprecedented five day state wide prisoner strike in Georgia last month; the former pointing toward the necessity and the latter to the potential of a renewed collective struggle against prisons and the society that produces them. Graffiti was spotted in the neighbourhood after the demonstration, it read: burn the banks, destroy the prisons! Against all prisons! Potosi will burn!

Santa Cruz, CA (USA) – Around 25 people held a noise demonstration outside of the Blaine Street Women’s Facility. People chanted in solidarity with two recently escaped (and recaptured) prisoners, and drummed on 55 gallon jugs. Prisoners responded to the demonstration by flashing the lights on and off in their cells and pointing their lamps out the windows. It was meaningful to us that prisoners inside seemed to appreciate our show of support. We look forward to a new year of experimenting with different ways of solidifying that support. 

Berlin, Germany (EU) – At 3pm about 100 people gathered in front of the detention centre for immigrants, which lies in the extreme outskirts of town (in Grünau) with music, chants, slogans, drums and good spirit, which was not put down by the heavy police presence. The demonstration broke for a moment the isolation in which refugees are forced into everyday.

At night, over 500 comrades moved on around the district of Moabit where Berlin’s pre-trial detention prison lies. The demonstration takes place since more than 20 years and aims to break the monotony of prison life for a few hours and show again our refusal of society based in punishment. Demonstrators chanted slogans like “freedom for everybody” and “from Grünau to Moabit… Dynamite!” The demonstration moved on exploding fireworks all the time, even while passing the local courthouse. The rally ended in front of the prison where fireworks were massively exploded to salute the prisoners.

In the evening about 20 people paid a visit to the women prison and courthouse located in the district of Pankow. “An unregistered demonstration took place in the evening against the women prison of Pankow, following a rally of about 80 people which took place today in the afternoon in Grünau in front of the detention center for immigrants. About 20 people moved around the prison and windows of it as also of the courthouse have been smashed. Slogans have been spraypainted on the walls, directed against the prison system and which asked freedom for the prisoners. All the action have been accompanied by the exploding of fireworks in order to send greetings for the new year’s eve over the walls. For freedom, for revolt! Towards a 2011 of struggle!” Some of the spray-painted slogans as reported by the press: “for freedom,” “prisons to become hole in the ground,” “criminal is the system,” and “revolt.”

Later in the night a police station located in the Brunnestr., district of Mitte, was attacked with flares, stones, paintbombs and molotov cocktails by a group which called itself “autonomous groups.” As the press reported, a barricade was also erected on the same street and set on fire, caltrops were left around and flattened the tires of two police cars. Their claim (from directactionde) here:

“Two years ago the cop Reinhardt Rother murdered Dennis J. In Schönfließ. The capitalist system manages to remain in power only through the terror of the “authorities responsible for security.” The citizens will be prevented to search any alternatives through fear. However everywhere in Europe it comes to explosions of rage against police authorities; only a while ago conflicts escalated in London, Rome and Athens. We want to push such a sharpening through making clear: no state murder will remain forgotten! Therefore we attacked the police station 31 in Berlin on the new year’s eve.  Police violence will always release our resistance.
-Autonomous groups

Dennis J. was a young lad from the district of Neukölln who was murdered on new year’s eve of 2008 by the cops while he was on the run following some minors criminal charges. The main murderer was sentenced to 2 years on probation this summer. Dennis J’s murder has sparked two years of actions by comrades, his family and friends, as well as from general angry people.

Hamburg, Germany (EU) – 150 took the streets towards the prison of Holstenglacis where they held a rally and exploded fireworks to brighten the night of the prisoners.

Köln, Germany (EU) – About 200 people demonstrated to the local prison in solidarity with all prisoners.

Stuttgart, Germany (EU) – After an anti-capitalist night demo over 100 comrades exploded fireworks and shouted slogans at the prison of Stammheim.

Nürnberg, Germany (EU) – About 100 people rioted around the area of the prison, smashing shops and pulling up some barricades, the cops identified an high number of person around the area.

Bedford, England (UK) – Over 100 people gathered in front of the Yarl’s Wood immigration prison. With whistles, pots and pans, flutes, drums, rattles, megaphones, and a soundsystem, the demonstration was heard by those inside the prison. People chanted “Free the Yarl’s Wood 3,” “Hunger Strikers are Freedom Fighters,”  “An Injury to One is an Injury to All,” and “No One is Illegal.” After gathering around the entrance to the prison with lots of banners, people moved around to the side entrance, within sight of people inside, who waved and shouted back. Cars and buses honked in support, and residents of the surrounding housing came and joined in. Free the Yarl’s Wood 3!

Athens, Greece (EU) – Anarchist held a solidarity protest outside Korydallos prison, the main prison in Athens, at the time of the change of year. This protest has happened every New Year’s Eve for the past six years. This year more than 400 people took part in the protest that interacted with the prisoners inside through shouting mutual slogans and fireworks. The main slogan was “The passion for freedom is stronger that your prisons.”

Thessaloniki, Greece (EU)100 people gathered outside Diavata prison. People then marched to the police headquarters to show solidarity with a comrade who was arrested defending the anarchist squat Nadir.

Heraklion, Crete (EU)30 comrades held a motorized march towards Alikarnassos prison, shooting fireworks at its rear.

Volos, Greece (EU)Around 70 comrades showed solidarity with detainees who were in struggle that evening. The detainees shouted and banged on the bars as soon as the people outside arrived, shooting fireworks and yelling out slogans.

Grevena, Greece (EU)At least 70 people gathered outside the Feli prison, where a live broadcast of solidarity was held.

One more year we found ourselves next to imprisoned comrades and all those detained who do not bend nor bow their heads, who dared to resist and fight against the regime.

Amsterdam, Holland (EU)Solidarity demonstration took place outside the immigrant detention centre of Zaandam. http://www.indymedia.nl/nl/2011/01/72606.shtml

Gent, Belgium (EU) Demonstration took place against prison. http://www.indymedia.nl/nl/2011/01/72616.shtml

December 30th 2010

Athens, Greece (EU) - A powerful bomb detonated outside a court building near central Athens on Thursday morning, causing significant damage but no injuries, the police said. The authorities found the device and cordoned off the area around the Athens administrative court after calls to the private television station Alter and the daily newspaper Eleftherotypia at about 7:40 a.m. warned that a bomb would go off there in 40 minutes. The explosion damaged the facade of the court building as well as several cars, and also blew out windows in nearby apartment buildings. The attack on the Administrative Court is dedicated with all our fire to our brothers (G.Tsakalos, P.Argirou, H.Hajimihelakis) of the prisoner’s cell of the members of Conspiracy of Cells of Fire.

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Shortly before the bombing in Athens, a smaller explosion occurred outside the Greek Embassy in Buenos Aires in the middle of the night. “According to the initial findings of the Argentinean police, the blast was caused by a Molotov cocktail thrown by unidentified assailants,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement. In response to the trials scheduled for the coming days and the repression against our anarchist comrades from the Fire Cells Conspiracy, we decided to attack the Greek embassy in Argentina… Our attack coincides with a series of attacks perpetrated by comrades in Greece and Italy, because we understand solidarity as a weapon that we must use in order to confront the defenders of society’s prison system. Just like the executioners who repeatedly murder unarmed people fighting for a piece of land to live on, we show no mercy in attacking authority when it’s least expected.”

The reference to Italy is about a series of parcel bombs sent in late December 2010, two of which exploded at the Chilean and Swiss Embassies in Rome (1 mail-room employee in each embassy is injured) and another was intercepted and defused after being sent to the Greek Embassy in Rome. We’re striking again, and we do so in response to the appeal launched by our Greek comrades the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire.

“It’s after establishing communication with prisoners that ongoing solidarity becomes a tangible possibility. It is this solidarity that has the potential to negate the function of prison as a weapon that isolates people and extinguishes revolts. Stripped of its function, the physical walls of prison become a simple formality. At that point the question is no longer ‘how do we tear them down,’ but when.

By struggling in a direction that moves to negate prison’s capabilities, we also move to strengthen our position in the conflict. When prisons become less isolating, they become weak. When they are weak, we are strong, precisely because it’s the nature of our relationships that will destroy prison.

When we develop a combative and revolutionary solidarity between the inside and outside of prison, then we will be less afraid to come into conflict with it. In other words, we will be much harder to control, because our struggles don’t end at the walls of prison and nor will we let them. No, our struggles will pass right through them, leaving nothing but a memory in their place.”
- Against Prison

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