July 17: The Five-day Reviews -- Clearing the Legal
On July 17, Mike Csoka conducted fourteen five-day reviews, all involving
prisoners allegedly involved in either the incident in the exercise yard
or the smash-up in A unit -- by far the largest number of such reviews
done at one sitting during my five years of research at Kent. This correctional
tour de force was a fitting match for the thirty-eight minor disciplinary
charges Mr. Csoka had adjudicated in one afternoon four years earlier
at Matsqui Institution. He completed the review of these fourteen cases
in about an hour and a half. A number of prisoners were extremely angry
and still pumped up from the previous Mondayís smash-up. Although there
were security officers posted outside the room, Mr. Csoka conducted the
review without reinforcements; he kept his cool even when subjected to
considerable verbal abuse. His handling of the cases portrayed a correctional
practitioner with confidence in his position and authority, ready to do
a tough job under difficult circumstances. In a correctional context,
he was the proverbial man for all seasons.
But how well did this second marathon measure up to the standards of
the law and due process? Each review followed the same format under Mr.
Csokaís chairmanship. He began by asking the prisoner whether he had received
seventy-two hoursí written notice of the review and had agreed to come
to the review. Each one had. In several cases, he prefaced these questions
with the comment: "But first there is some legal stuff to go over." This
was revealing, since it implied that the legal requirements were procedural
hurdles which, having been cleared, allowed the real business -- the exercise
of administrative discretion unconstrained by law -- to get underway.
Having cleared these legal hurdles, Mr. Csoka informed each prisoner
that he would remain in segregation pending an investigation, in some
cases of his involvement with the incident in the yard and in the others
with the destruction of property in A unit. This signalled to prisoners
that the determination for continued segregation had already been made;
whatever they said would make no difference to this outcome. Mr. Csoka
was up front about this, a quality much respected by prisoners. However,
the legal function of the five-day review is to consider whether there
are continuing grounds for segregation, not simply to announce this determination
to the prisoner.
The following exchange from the review of prisoner Glen Rosenthal (taken
from my notes) captures the nature of Mr. Csokaís review process:
MC : Mr. Rosenthal,
we are going to maintain you in segregation pending the investigation
of your involvement in the yard.
GR : I would like to
request specific information about what has been alleged against me regarding
my involvement in the yard.
MC : I canít tell you
that. Itís up to the IPSOs. Theyíre the ones doing the investigation with
GR : So Iím in seg
for allegations but you canít tell me what they are?
MC : Thatís right.
Mr. Rosenthal and several other prisoners complained bitterly about
the conditions in segregation: specifically, they had been given no change
of clothes. Prisoners brought down after the smash-up on Monday were still
in the coveralls they had been given when they were taken out of their
cells. They had no underwear, and their cells were bare except for bedding.
Mr. Rosenthal asked Mr. Csoka why Kent was not complying with the CCRA
provisions requiring that a prisoner admitted into segregation be given
the same rights, privileges, and conditions of confinement as the general
inmate population. Mr. Csokaís response was that prisoners receive their
effects only after the five-day review. Mr. Rosenthal asked, "Where in
the CCRA does it say that prisoners in
segregation are not entitled to all their rights in the first five days?"
Mr. Csoka said the recent audit done as part of the Task Force on Administrative
Segregation had approved the practice of not giving prisoners their effects
until after the five-day review; however, Mr. Rosenthal still wanted to
know where in the law this was authorized. The segregation staff had told
him and other prisoners that they would get their clothes and tobacco
only when they started to behave themselves. Mr. Rosenthal questioned,
"Where does it say in the CCRA that you
can use our rights as behaviour modification?" (In her report the previous
year, Madam Justice Arbour had given her unequivocal answer that this
was not legally permissible.)
Mr. Rosenthal inquired whether the five-day review was being tape-recorded.
When told it was not, he asked how the review was documented. Mr. Csoka
said the clerk was keeping a record. Mr. Rosenthal questioned this: "She
hasnít written down anything that I have said, so how is she keeping a
record?" Mr. Csoka explained that the clerk wrote down only the reasons
for segregation. Mr. Rosenthal's characterization of this was: "So none
of what went on here is on record. Itís like it never happened."
Two of the reviews conducted by Mr. Csoka on July 17 had a compelling
quality. Mr. Forget had seen his friend Christian Grenier dying in the
yard and had himself been hit in the head with a baseball bat. Mr. Csoka
showed compassion and empathy, asking Mr. Forget how he was coping with
his friendís death and commenting that it must be very hard on him. Mr.
Forget explained that the Valium which had come into the institution was
supposed to reach Mr. Grenier. When it did not, Mr. Grenier and his friends
were prepared to write it off. But on Thursday, while Mr. Forget and Mr.
Grenier were walking around the yard, they had been approached by other
prisoners and confronted with threats. Mr. Forget had taken a defensive
position, which he now regretted because his friend was dead. Mr. Csoka
told him he would be kept in segregation pending the outcome of the investigation;
the institution was concerned that if Mr. Forget went back to the population
there was a risk of further assaults.
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