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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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