location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 4 / Chapter 3 The Arbour Report: The Indictment of a System / The Segregation Unit at the P4W, April 22-26, 1994

A further, more pervasive violation of the law related to CCRA requirements that prisoners in administrative segregation be given the same rights, privileges and conditions of confinement as the general inmate population, except for those that cannot reasonably be given owing to limitations specific to the administrative segregation area or security requirements ( CCRA s. 37).

In this case, the governing direction from the warden in place from early April 23rd was that nothing was to be given to the inmates. The interpretation of this instruction varied somewhat depending upon who was on duty. In general, though, the regime was one of denial. Virtually none of the rights, privileges and conditions of confinement available in the general prison population or ordinarily available in segregation were provided . . .

In addition to being denied their legal entitlements with respect to access to lawyers and exercise, they were denied telephone calls to others, including to the Correctional Investigator, books and activities, showers, cleaning, and the removal of garbage accumulation. As well, the segregation logs record frequent refusals of their requests for socks, clothing, ice, lights, pop and toilet paper.

They were denied visits from the Inmate Committee members, from members of the Peer Support Team (a group of specially trained inmates who support each other in times of crisis), and spiritual support.

On the evening of Sunday, April 24th, officers were directed not to speak to the inmates, and two days later they were directed not to do rounds.

That same evening, the water was shut off and remained off until Monday afternoon, when it was turned on and the inmates were advised that if there were any problems, it would be turned off again. The evidence indicated that the only reason for turning off water would be flooding, although there was no indication that flooding had occurred. Indeed, turning off the water appears to have aggravated the behaviour of the inmates and increased the throwing of urine.

In general terms, the reasons advanced for the denial of these rights and privileges were linked to the behaviour of the inmates. Not all these restrictions can be rationally attributed to security or safety concerns. They were more an attempt to reward good behaviour and punish bad . . .

The denial of rights and privileges in the Segregation Unit between April 22nd and April 26th was in contravention of the applicable law and policy. This was clearly based on a managerial strategy for handling the situation in the unit. It was an ill advised strategy which, in my opinion, contributed to an escalation of the situation . . . The fact that the policy of "they get nothing," was never changed, even after the intervention of the IERT, raises serious questions as to whether it was indeed merely a managerial strategy to control the unit, or whether it was, in part, the manifestation of a punitive attitude which would be a more serious contravention, not only of the policies, but of the law. (Arbour at 51-55)

As readers will recall, Bill Frederick’s account of his harrowing experiences in H unit at Kent in 1983 also reflected an institutional strategy of "they get nothing" which precipitated prisoner protests, "justifying" more punitive responses from the staff.

Madam Justice Arbour commented on the CSC’s general attitude regarding non-compliance with the law, as reflected in the witnesses who testified before her:

The most troubling from my point of view, is the attitude of the CSC, throughout this inquiry, vis a vis these issues. It is only when virtually all the evidence had been thoroughly scrutinized at the hearings that the CSC conceded that access to counsel during the period of April 25th to 29th was improperly denied. Even then, counsel for the CSC urged the Commission not to conclude that the denial of right to counsel was reflective of the usual standards met by the Correctional Service staff with regard to observance of legal and policy requirements. It was not within the ambit of this inquiry to scrutinize the level of legal compliance throughout the Service and I therefore have little basis upon which to conclude that the shortcomings at the Prison for Women were an aberration . . . Certainly with respect to right to counsel, access to daily exercise, daily visits to segregation by institutional heads, and so on, the evidence indicates that these legal requirements were largely unknown, virtually at all levels, at the Prison for Women . . .

. . . Significantly in my view, when the departures from legal requirements in this case became known through this inquiry’s process, their importance was downplayed and the overriding public security concern was always relied upon when lack of compliance had to be admitted. This was true to the higher ranks of the Correctional Service management, which leads me to believe that the lack of observance of individual rights is not an isolated factor applicable only to the Prison for Women, but is probably very much part of the CSC’s corporate culture. (Arbour at 56-57, emphasis added)

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