Logo














Section
location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 4 / Chapter 1 Administrative Segregation: The Litmus Test of Legitimacy / The Thomas Case

From June 27, 1990, the day Mr. Thomas was first segregated at Kent, until January 23, 1991, the day he was sentenced for the escape, Mr. Thomasí segregation at Kent was reviewed every month by the Segregation Review Board. The Boardís recommendation, approved by the warden, was that Mr. Thomasí segregation be maintained until his charges were dealt with and pending a review of his case for transfer to a Special Handing Unit. Although initially the extent of Mr. Thomasí involvement in the escape was not known to institutional authorities, by August of 1990 it was clear that Mr. Thomas had not been involved in the planning nor did he have any prior knowledge of the escape. Indeed, following the September Segregation Review Board review of his case, a representative from Regional Headquarters, who under the Commissionerís Directives was required to review the cases of all prisoners segregated for more than sixty days, agreed to maintain the segregation pending court action but added that Mr. Thomas "should not be considered in the same category as his accomplice" (Administrative Segregated Status Review (RHQ) September 21, 1990).

Following his court appearance in January 1991, Mr. Thomas was seen by the Segregation Review Board for another sixty-day review. The following notation appears over the signature of Mr. Scisson, warden of Kent Institution:

Mr. Thomas was seen by the Segregation Review Board today for his 60 day review. He continues to be housed in the Segregation Unit as a result of his participation in the helicopter escape from Kent Institution in June 1990. He attended outside court in 91-01-23 for his escape charge and received a four-month consecutive sentence for his participation in those events.

Mr. Thomas was again informed that, following a Committee review on 91-01-31 to assess the status of pursuing or not pursuing the HMSU transfer, the decision was made to continue with the processing of this involuntary transfer. He will remained segregated pending the processing and decision of the HMSU involuntary transfer. (Review of Inmate Segregated Status, February 6, 1991)

On February 22, Mr. Thomas was served with a Notice of Involuntary Transfer Recommendation to the Special Handling Unit signed by Warden Scisson. The reasons given were as follows:

On 90/06/18, you were involved in a violent helicopter escape from Kent Maximum-security Institution. During this escape, gunfire was exchanged and an officer was shot in the leg and seriously wounded.

Following an intensive Royal Canadian Mounted Police search, you were apprehended and returned to custody by the RCMP tactical squad on 90/06/20. After being recaptured you stated on 90/06/21 that you would escape again if given the opportunity. This was stated by yourself to the media, on the steps of the Chilliwack Courthouse.

The Management of this institution considers you to be a serious and persistent risk to the good order of Kent Institution. Prior to your participation in a violent helicopter escape, you incurred some thirty five institutional charges and you spent a considerable amount of time in segregation.

Since your return to custody, your behaviour has deteriorated to the point where the following incidents have occurred: On 90/07/13 you refused to lock up after exercising in the yard and you became verbally abusive towards staff. On 90/08/14 you threw your food tray onto the range. On 90/10/28 you kicked inmate Faulkner in the head in the Segregation exercise yard. On 90/11/19 you threw your food tray out of your cell, you started fires in J unit and you flooded your cell. On 90/12/01 you became verbally abusive towards staff when you were told to finish serving other inmates coffee. On 90/12/03 you smashed the J unit sub-control glass. On 90/12/30 you proceeded to light fires on the range. On 90/12/31 when told to change cells, you stood directly in front of your cell door and when it was opened, you physically tried to assault a staff member. On 91/02/12 you yelled with other inmates, "We donít care, bring the gas, bring the army." On 91/02/13 you threw your food tray and garbage onto the tier.

For the above mentioned reasons, you are being recommended for transfer to the High Maximum-security Unit at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. (Notice of Involuntary Transfer Recommendation, Annex A, 91-02-22).

Mr. Thomas, through his lawyer, submitted a detailed response to Warden Scissonís reasons for transfer:

According to all police investigation reports, the statements of Crown Counsel to the Court and the findings of fact of the judge before whom I pled guilty and by whom I was sentenced, my involvement in the escape of June 18, 1990, was as a "last minute addition" with no premeditation or planning on my part. In other words, it was an impulsive opportunistic involvement. I had no idea that gunfire would be exchanged, let alone that an officer would be shot in the leg and seriously wounded. After I was almost shot myself, I turned myself in. There has never been any suggestion of my being a party to any other offences related to that escape.

I have never attempted to escape before that incident and it seems highly unlikely that I will ever have an opportunity such as that in the future. Consequently, that incident was out of character for me and was an isolated incident.

In the fourth paragraph in Annex A you list a number of incidents. Of the twelve incidents mentioned only four involved institutional charges and the other eight did not involve even a verbal warning or reprimand nor were some of them even brought to my attention. (Response of David Thomas, undated)

Mr. Thomas then addressed one by one the several incidents referred to by the warden as demonstrating his deteriorating behaviour since his placement in segregation. His rebuttal is a graphic illustration of prison rock-n-roll in the Kent Segregation Unit. With respect to the allegation that Mr. Thomas on November 19, 1990 threw his food tray out of his cell, started fires in J Unit and flooded his cell, he responded:

I admit throwing my food tray out of the cell as part of a group protest in what appeared to me to have become the accepted protest method. I recall some paper had been thrown on to the range and had been set alight and there were small fires burning and the word was passed along that we should throw our trays out in protest. All six of us on our tier were stripped naked and put in empty cells for eight hours and we were then given coveralls and a mattress and kept in those empty cells for a period of one week with no privileges. We were subsequently returned to our cells and charged with disciplinary offences. I was not charged with flooding my cell. I recall the whole tier was flooded but it is unfair to suggest that I was responsible for the flooding.

Page 2 of 4