location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 4 / Chapter 5 A Deadly July: Prison Politics, Staff Realities and the Law / July 17: The Five-day Reviews -- Clearing the Legal Hurdles

Jimmy Whitmore’s five-day review was compelling for different reasons. In Sector 2, Chapter 2, "The Life and Death of the Electric Man," I described Mr. Whitmore’s physical intensity when he gave evidence in Hughie MacDonald’s murder trial. On this occasion, he was infused with an anger that filled the small interview room. Mr. Whitmore was told by Mr. Csoka that he would be maintained in segregation pending the investigation of the incident in the yard. When Mr. Whitmore questioned why that required him to be segregated beyond five days, he was given the additional information that the IPSOs and the RCMP had asked that he be kept there until the investigation was complete. When Mr. Whitmore asked what the particular allegations were against him, he was advised, as were the other prisoners who asked this question, that this information was not available to him. He protested angrily, saying the institution must know from the videotape that he had taken a baseball bat out of a prisoner’s hands and thrown it over the fence, and that he had tried to calm things down rather than incite matters. He and some of the other prisoners had got everyone to lock up without further problems. "We did your job for you," he thundered, "and now we look like goofs." Two months before, an understanding had been struck between the warden and prisoner representatives that there would be a protocol if lock-downs were imposed; this protocol involved communicating with the prisoners. Yet this had not been respected the previous week, he said, and that had the predictable effect of getting prisoners riled up. When the lock-down continued after the weekend, visits were cancelled, showers were limited, and tobacco was scarce. He had written to the warden early Monday morning and the prisoners expected a response, but it never came. He maintained that the smash-up on Monday evening was as much the administration’s responsibility as it was the prisoners’. He went on to protest the conditions in segregation: the lack of clothes, the limited showers, the restrictions on visits. He told Mr. Csoka that he had a private family visit in three weeks and proclaimed, with his body wound tight, "I won’t see my child crying because he can’t touch his dad because you Nazis have me locked up in segregation."

Mr. Csoka let Mr. Whitmore finish what he had to say, although he must have been very discomforted. He then promised to talk to the Visit Review Board and get back to Mr. Whitmore before the end of the day with their response to whether more visiting blocks could be opened up, given the large numbers of prisoners in segregation.

It was still only 1:30 p.m., and Mike Csoka’s day was not yet over. Neither was mine. Later that afternoon, I returned to segregation and taped an interview with Jimmy Whitmore. His speech was quieter, in part a conspiratorial function of having a microphone on the table, but his anger was still pulsating. He began by calling the review a sham. Two days before, one of the IPSOs had told Mr. Whitmore he was in segregation because several hours before the smash-up in A unit, some guards had heard him shouting out his cell window, and he was therefore believed to have incited the destruction. He had been through major smash-ups in Millhaven and elsewhere and he knew how little they accomplished and how much prisoners were made to pay later. None of the cells on his range, which included Hughie MacDonald’s and Darryl Bates’, had been trashed, he said, because prisoners with as much time in as they had knew how little was achieved by such "punk action." He had been shouting out his window that afternoon to tell the other prisoners about his letter to the warden and was actually trying to keep a lid on the situation. A lot of people were shouting that afternoon, and he questioned how any officer could distinguish who was saying what. He suspected he had been fingered because he was the acknowledged spokesman for A unit.

Jimmy Whitmore then explained to me the nature of his involvement with the incident in the yard:

I went out to the yard that afternoon. I left my visit early. I went out because I knew there was a trip. But I was sure it could be mediated and solved and that’s the way I like to work things. I’m sick and tired of seeing people dying in here. No one wants to die in prison. I believed that the problem was squared off, it was mediated, it was over. Then all of a sudden somebody grabbed some bats, threw them to the guys and the next thing you know I’m standing between a guy with a knife and another guy with two bats trying to keep them from fighting, right? It’s all on camera. They can’t dispute that. I had no weapons. I mean, I put my life on the line . . .

My involvement there was taking the bat out of a guy’s hand and throwing it over the fence and getting the guys to go in quietly. That’s wrong? I also took [Claude Forget] to the gym. He had a big cut on his head . . . If we didn’t do that, take the bats away from the guys, and tell them to calm down, what do you think would have happened? I know what would have happened because I’ve seen it happen before. Hey, there’s a bunch of guards out there. They’ve got no weapons. There’s one guy in the tower with a gun. A couple of us would have got shot. Probably quite a few of them would have got hurt. A few more of our guys would have been killed or stabbed. And we stopped that. And we’re locked up now? Where’s the logic? And what they tell me in seg review is "I don’t have an answer for this" and "I don’t have an answer for that. (Interview with Jimmy Whitmore, Kent Institution, July 17, 1997)

Mr. Whitmore’s five-day review, like the other hearings that day, did not conform to the basic requirements of the law. When he was first placed in segregation and at the five-day review, Mr. Whitmore was told he would be maintained in segregation pending the completion of investigations into the incident in the yard. This is not a sufficient ground under the CCRA. An ongoing investigation justifies segregation under s. 31(3)(b) only if that investigation could lead to a criminal charge or a serious disciplinary offence and -- this is critical -- if the continued presence of the prisoner in the general population would interfere with that investigation. This interference could be caused by intimidation of other prisoners the police or the IPSOs want to interview or by the destruction of evidence.

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