location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 4 / Chapter 3 The Arbour Report: The Indictment of a System / What Happened at the Prison for Women

What Happened at the Prison for Women

The chronology of the events leading to the Arbour Inquiry is outlined in the following passage from the Commissioner's Report:

On the evening of Friday, April 22, 1994, a brief but violent physical confrontation took place between six inmates at the Prison for Women and a number of the correctional staff. The six inmates were immediately placed in the Segregation Unit at the Prison for Women. Criminal charges were laid against them; and five of the six inmates ultimately pleaded guilty to offences connected to the incident.

Tension was very high at the prison -- particularly in the Segregation Unit. In the subsequent days, behaviour in that unit was very agitated. On Sunday, April 24th, three inmates who had not been involved in the April 22nd incident, but who were already in segregation when the six were brought in, variously slashed, took a hostage, and attempted suicide.

On Tuesday, April 26, 1994, correctional staff demonstrated outside the Prison for Women demanding the transfer of the inmates that had been involved in the April 22 incident. On the evening of April 26, 1994, the warden of the Prison for Women called in a male Institutional Emergency Response Team ("IERT") from Kingston Penitentiary to conduct a cell extraction and strip search of eight women in segregation; the six who had been involved in the April 22nd incident, and two others. As is customary when the IERT is deployed, the cell extractions and strip searches were videotaped. At the end of the lengthy procedure, which finished early in the morning of April 27th, the eight inmates were left in empty cells in the Segregation Unit wearing paper gowns, and in restraints and leg irons.

On the evening of Wednesday, April 27th, seven of the eight inmates were subjected to body cavity searches.

Friday, May 6, 1994, five inmates, four of whom had been in the April 22 incident, were transferred to a wing of the Regional Treatment Centre, a male psychiatric treatment facility within Kingston Penitentiary. Two of these women subsequently launched habeas corpus applications, and on July 12, 1994, they were ordered returned to the Prison for Women. Four inmates were returned to the Prison for Women between July 14th and 18th, 1994, while another was transferred to the Regional Prairie Centre.

The six women who had been involved in the April 22nd incident remained in segregation for many months. On December 1st, 1994, the women’s agreement to plead guilty to related criminal charges was publicly announced. They appeared in court and pleaded guilty to the agreed charges on December 22, 1994.

The women were released from segregation between December 7, 1994 and January 19, 1995 . . .

On all the evidence before me, I am satisfied that the guilty pleas, and the facts tendered in support of these pleas, present a reliable summary of the significant elements of the events on April 22nd. These facts are as follows.

The incident took place shortly before 6:00 p.m. on April 22nd. The B range inmates were attending the hospital area, as is routine, to receive prescribed medication. Inmates Young and Shea approached the hospital barrier and inmate Young began to demand her medication in a loud and aggressive voice. The two inmates were quickly joined by inmates Twins, Morrison, Emsley and Bettencourt. Most of the inmates wore street clothes.

There were six inmates in an area controlled by four correctional officers -- Vance, Boston, Metivier and Fabio. Officer Vance questioned the group at which point the inmates jumped the officers on what appeared to be a signal from Ms. Twins. Ms. Morrison attacked Officer Vance, striking her a number of times in the upper abdomen, left arm and left thigh area with an instrument, which was never recovered, capable of making puncture marks. Ms. Young also jumped Officer Vance and during the course of the assault, the officer recalls hearing the words "kill you" spoken by one of the inmates.

Inmate Young turned to inmate Twins and said: "Where is the scissors? Give me the scissors so I can stick her." Inmate Twins reached for a pair of hobbycraft-sized scissors and tried to pass them to inmate Young, but they were knocked clear and taken by Officer Boston . . .

Ms. Twins grabbed Officer Fabio, who had gone to assist Officer Vance, around the neck and said to her: "You’re my fucking hostage. We’re going out through the front door." Officer Fabio was able to break free and was attacked by Ms. Young, Ms. Bettencourt and Ms. Morrison, who grabbed her and struck her. Inmate Young said: "Grab the telephone cord. We’ll string the bitch up, right here." Inmates Young and Bettencourt tried to pull Officer Fabio onto B range and were heard yelling: "We’ve got her. She’s coming with us. Let’s get her." Inmate Young pulled Officer Fabio by the hair and clumps of hair similar in colour to that of Officer Fabio were later found on the floor.

Correctional Supervisor Gillis arrived, armed with mace, and ordered the inmates to release Officer Fabio. They wouldn’t, and Correctional Supervisor Gillis maced both inmates, thereby freeing Officer Fabio who remembers thinking that she was going to be killed.

Officer Boston had attempted to go to Officer Fabio’s aid and was grabbed around the throat by Ms. Twins who said: "Give me your keys. We’re going out the front door. Don’t push me, Boston. I’ve got a shiv and I’ll stick you." Ms. Twins then attempted to get Officer Boston’s key from her pocket. Correctional Supervisor Gillis attempted to control the situation and Ms. Twins kicked him in the groin area, whereupon he maced her.

After the immediate situation was controlled, the inmates were removed from the area to the Segregation Unit . . . During the course of the removal to the segregation area, Ms. Bettencourt became violent, biting, kicking and spitting at the escort officers. She kicked Officer Smith in the left knee. Officer Smith had previously had medical problems with the knee. The doctor later diagnosed a torn cartilage and placed Officer Smith in a hip to ankle cast. She was subsequently rushed to hospital as a result of blood clotting.

The incident was very brief, lasting a minute and a half to two or three minutes at most. (at 27-29)

Page 1 of 2

Prison for Women ( P4W)