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August 14: The Thirty-Day Reviews - A Legal Milestone?

The Segregation Review Board which met on August 14 did not have to consider the cases of any prisoners involved in the A unit smash-up. All of them had already been released except for one who remained in segregation, serving out a sentence of 30 days’ punitive segregation imposed at a disciplinary hearing on charges preceding the smash-up.

Seven prisoners alleged to be involved in the incident in the exercise yard remained in segregation. As I have described, Mr. Forget had been seen by the Board two days prior to the regular thirty-day reviews, and the Board recommended to the warden that he be released back to the population. The warden determined that this should take place and late in the afternoon of August 14, Mr. Forget returned to his cell in C unit.

The thirty-day reviews were chaired by Unit Manager Wallin, who had been asked to take on this responsibility at the last moment. All of the prisoners attended their reviews except for Mr. Makichuk. Under new procedures, each prisoner’s CMO was supposed to be at the review, together with the IPSO; however, at the August 14 reviews, none of the prisoners’ CMOs were present, and neither was the IPSO, despite the fact that information he had collected was critical to the reviews. Because Mr. Wallin had had no time to prepare in advance, at the beginning of each review he consulted the bare-bones summary on the prisoner’s index card. Although the prisoners had been given three days’ notice that the hearing would be conducted, they were provided with no written information regarding their cases. It could hardly be maintained that there was no information to share. During the month since the Grenier killing, there had been a constant flow of information between prisoners and the administration regarding the climate in the population and the risks associated with the release of the segregated prisoners. The national investigation had been completed two weeks earlier, and senior management had been debriefed by the investigation team. This new information was the basis on which the Segregation Review Board should have assessed the justification for continued segregation of the prisoners. The information should also have been reduced to writing and shared with the prisoners. The thirty-day review should be a significant milestone for the gathering of evidence and its assessment against the legal criteria. However, the August thirty-day reviews bore none of these markings.

In several cases, when prisoners inquired when they would be released now that the national investigation was over, they were told that the RCMP investigation was ongoing and they would be maintained in segregation pending its completion and the IPSO’s assessment of their risk. After informing Shawn Preddy of this, Mr. Wallin asked him whether he had been questioned by the RCMP. Mr. Preddy said no; in fact, nobody from either outside or inside the institution had questioned him about the incident in the yard (Mr. Preddy, like Mr. Whitmore, was a player in the events of both Deadly July and The Life and Death of the Electric Man). Mr. Wallin said he would ask the IPSO to speak with Mr. Preddy.

There was one obvious question which occurred to me during the hearings and which was voiced by several prisoners. Why was the Board maintaining their segregation at this stage pending an assessment by the IPSO of their risk if released to the population? There had been more than enough time to do this assessment, and one primary purpose of the thirty-day review should have been to consider it.

The thirty-day reviews of these prisoners, like the five-day reviews, utterly failed to fulfil the purposes of a review as envisaged by the CCRA. Prisoners had not been given the legally required written information about their cases; there was no review or assessment of the available evidence, and no inquiry was directed to the legal grounds for segregation. While it could not be said, as in the five-day reviews, that the thirty-day reviews were conducted by a chairperson who had prejudged the issue, they were conducted by a chairperson who (through no fault of his own) was totally unprepared for the hearing.

The legislative purpose of the thirty-day reviews had also been undermined by the musical chairs played over the previous month in key management positions. For two weeks after the death of Christian Grenier, Mike Csoka (in his various capacities), IPSO Jim Farrell, and Warden Brenda Marshall were the principal institutional figures to and through whom information flowed. All three were there during the national investigation and had participated in the debriefing. Following that, the warden went on a week’s annual leave. Mike Csoka and Jim Farrell went on three weeks’ leave, and Unit Manager Lin Wallin and IPSO Wayne Culbert, who had been on annual leaves of absence themselves during the critical period and missed the national debriefing, returned to their positions. Claude Demers, acting unit manager of segregation, had been absent for six weeks previous to that. Deputy Warden Doug Richmond was in the institution for only part of the two weeks following the murder, and he too missed the national debriefing. These comings and goings resulted in people making decisions without being in possession of the entire picture.

Correctional staff, like all workers, are certainly entitled to their holidays. July and August, for obvious reasons -- good weather, kids out of school -- are the prime months for annual leave. But the law is not supposed to go on holiday. In July and August of 1997, Kent maintained the skeletal framework of segregation review, but the reviews did not meet the legal standards of a fair and effective process.

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