Kent Institution -- Blood on the Floor
When the Task Force visited Kent Institution on September 4 and reviewed
the audit team’s findings, we saw under the heading of "Best Practices,"
a number of features including a strong unit manager, a segregation review
process that combined the program board with the 5 day review, an accessible
card index system documenting the history of each case, and a pattern
of staff rotation whereby staff had two rotations in segregation and then
two rotations in static posts, which had the effect of maintaining continuity
of experienced segregation staff while enabling them through their non-segregation
rotations to keep in touch with what is happening elsewhere in the institution.
The other best practice identified was a pre-prepared kit for new segregation
admissions so that when the prisoners came into the unit they were given
everything they needed by way of toiletries, clothes and other items during
their first days. Dan Kane, on hearing this, likened it to the Holiday
Inn approach to segregation.
A number of these "best practices" were put to the test during the Task
Force observations of the 5 day segregation review, the first such observation
that Task Force members had made during their tours of the various institutions.
The 5-day review board was chaired by Unit Manager Lamm. The second member
was the clerk to the program board who played no active role during the
review, which was not surprising given that her normal functions were
of a recording and clerical nature. In fact the only "program board" component
of the hearing was to inform prisoners that they would be on level one
pay for the first 30 days of their segregation and their pay level would
be re-evaluated after 30 days. The third member of the board who, according
to the ‘best practice’ model, was a case management officer, turned out
to be a CO-II who was acting as a case management officer but who was
dressed in her correctional officer uniform. This officer did double duty
during the hearing by escorting one of the prisoners who was on three-on-one
status. It was highly unlikely that any prisoner was even aware that she
was an acting case management officer and she played no role during the
review. In other words, contrary to the "best practices," there was no
input from either case management or program staff during the 5-day review.
There were several cases reviewed at the 5-day review which reinforced
concerns about the casual attitude towards liberty and the use of segregation.
Mr. McKinney and Mr. Siemens had been placed in segregation the previous
week following the assault of Officer Smith. The assailant, Mr. Briatt,
who had previously been fired from his job as a kitchen worker, had secured
a set of kitchen whites and had returned to the kitchen where he had committed
the assault. After Mr. Briatt was taken to segregation it was found that
the top part of the kitchen whites he was wearing had Mr. Siemens’ name
printed on it and the bottom part had Mr. McKinney’s name. These two prisoners
had therefore been segregated pending the investigation of their involvement
in the planning of the assault. Ms. Lamm advised them that the investigation
had been completed and the IPSO had reported that they were not involved
and therefore they would be released, subject to the completion of an
IPSO report on incompatibilities and bed space being available. Both men
asked whether their cells were being kept for them and were advised that
they had been. There would therefore not seem to be any issue about bed
space availability and it was difficult to see how the two men could have
developed any incompatibilities over the last week given that they were
general population prisoners. In any event if there was a need for such
a further check why could it not been done during the previous week while
they were in segregation? The net result for these two men was that they
had been detained in segregation thus far eight days and would spend another
one or two days before being released.
The last prisoner to be reviewed was Mr. Briatt himself. Mr. Briatt
had been placed in segregation following his assault on Food Officer Smith.
Mr. Briatt claimed that while in segregation on an unrelated incident
he had been informed by another prisoner that Mr. Smith had told this
prisoner that Mr. Briatt was a police informant. When Mr. Briatt was released
from segregation he found that prisoners with whom he previously had a
friendly relationship were now shunning him and he therefore went to the
kitchen to confront Mr. Smith with these false allegations. His intention
had been to drag Mr. Smith over to where prisoners were congregated and
have him dispel these false statements, which, if believed, placed his
life in danger. At his segregation review hearing Mr. Briatt was advised
his case was being reviewed for transfer to the Special Handling Unit
and that he would be retained in segregation pending a decision on that
transfer. Mr. Briatt had no problem with that but did raise the issue
of why he was still in the observation cell, which, as I have explained,
is a strip cell. That cell is reserved for prisoners who are suicidal
or otherwise acting out in a way which causes danger to themselves. Mr
Briatt maintained he had not been any problem to the staff in segregation,
he was not suicidal and so why was he still in the observation cell? Ms.
Lamm responded that that was not an appropriate issue for the Segregation
Review Board but was determined by the correctional supervisor and she
would discuss the matter with him after the hearing. Mr. Briatt was somewhat
perplexed, as were the Task Force members, that this issue was not considered
within the mandate of the Segregation Review Board as it very much related
to the conditions of his segregation.
After the hearing Task Force members spoke to the Inmate Committee who
were extremely upset that Mr. Briatt was still in the observation cell.
They felt there was no justification for keeping him there and it was
just an attempt to subject him to degrading conditions as an additional
unofficial punishment for having assaulted a staff member. Ms. Lamm informed
me later she had discussed the matter with the correctional supervisor
and that Mr. Briatt would be moved out of the observation cell that evening.
During a discussion of this case with Task Force members, Dan Kane had
no doubt that the decision to keep Mr. Briatt in the observation cell
for over a week was based upon a need for the staff to "have blood on
the floor," over and above whatever official sanctions were going to be
imposed. I pointed out that this worked both ways. The staff demand for
"blood on the floor" was seen as by the prisoners as further evidence
of the illegality of prison authority, generating hostility and giving
rise to their own reciprocal call for retaliation.
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