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The "Hostage-Taking" and Smash-Up in B Unit -- September, 1998

In September, 1998 there was a major incident at Kent Institution which resulted in the segregation of nine prisoners. The manner in which the segregation review process was managed by the institutional authorities, eighteen months after the release of the Task Force Report, shows the relationship between the CCRA and the customary law of segregation and the differences between institutional decision-making and independent adjudication.

The incident began as a brew party in the B unit common room but very quickly "went sideways." At around 6:30 p.m. the nine prisoners barricaded themselves in the room, claimed to have taken one of their number as a hostage and threatened to cause him serious harm unless they were provided with drugs. Because the institutional Emergency Response Team had temporarily withdrawn their services over the suspension of the Team Leader, the RCMP were called into the institution. During the eleven hours of negotiation, a warning shot was fired when prisoners tried to leave the common room and extensive damage was done to both the furniture and the room itself. Not to put too fine a point on it, the common room and everything in it was "trashed." At around 4:55 a.m. when the prisoners surrendered, they were taken to segregation without further altercations and once in segregation they caused no further problems or confrontation with the staff. Later that morning they were served with involuntary segregation placement notices that set out in detail the reasons for their segregation. All nine prisoners received the same placement form. It read as follows:

You are being placed in administrative segregation according to subsection 31(3)(a) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act because there are reasonable grounds to believe: "that (1) the inmate has acted, has attempted to act or intends to act in a manner that jeopardizes the security of the penitentiary or the safety of any person and (2) the continued presence of the inmate in the general population would jeopardize the security of the penitentiary or the safety of any person.

At approximately 18:30 hours yesterday staff observed you and eight other inmates in the "B unit" pool room created a disturbance by yelling and appearing to be under the influence of home made brew. When the supervisor attended, you and others claimed to have a hostage and that the group was demanding to be provided with morphine and valium. It was stated that the hostage was a "rat" and if the demands were not met that the hostage would have a finger cut off, and that this would be sent out to prove that the demands should be taken seriously. The pool room area was barricaded and visually obstructed to prevent staff from assessing the situation by the inmates within, by placing cushions into the window areas and overturning the pool table. Approximately three hours later the inmates contained in the pool room attempted to breach open the pool room door which had been secured by staff. Repeated orders to cease had no effects on the inmates efforts to stop their attempt to gain access to the rest of the living unit. Finally, a warning shot had to be discharged to quell the inmates’ actions.

You and other inmates continued to demand drugs, pop and food and claimed to have beaten the hostage into an unconscious state. To convince staff that this had taken place a broken pool cue and newspaper were thrown from the pool room window and both items had blood on them.

As negotiations were on-going staff heard you and others smashing objects in the pool room. The level of damage to government property was later assessed as almost complete destruction of the room itself including the furniture and television.

Approximately eleven hours later this situation was defused and you were placed into segregation. Your willingness to participate in brew related violence and the destruction of government property coupled with a threat of injury to others leaves no alternative other than segregation. (Involuntary Segregation Placement Notice of Brian Hickey, 98-09-16)

Attached to the Involuntary Segregation Placement Notice was several officer observation reports from staff members who had been on the scene during the incident. The prisoners were also informed that their 5-day review would be held on September 23, 1998.

I was at Kent Institution on the morning when the nine prisoners surrendered and were placed in segregation. Deputy Warden Doug Richmond and Unit Managers Mike Csoka and Brenda Lamm had already gone home to sleep having been at the institution the whole night. I spoke with Unit Manager Kevin Morgan, IPSO Wayne Culbert and the Co-ordinator of Correctional Operations Brian Ferguson. They told me that while the institution and the RCMP had initially taken seriously the prisoners’ claim that they had taken a hostage, during the night it became increasingly clear that this was a ploy either to try and get drugs or to forestall an attack on the common room. Even though the prisoners had sent out the pool cue and newspaper with blood on them, there was other significant evidence undermining the claim that this was a real hostage taking. In particular, the staff heard considerable laughter coming from in the room when enquiries were made as to the health of the alleged hostage. When the prisoners surrendered, although one of them had a cut on his leg, the wound was superficial and when he was taken to the institutional health care unit it was treated with a bandage and did not require any stitching. From the staff I spoke with, the consensus was that there was no hostage taking; rather, a brew party had gotten out of hand and the situation had quickly deteriorated resulting in the prisoners going on a rampage. I was also told that there was a very real possibility that some of the prisoners had got trapped in the room and may have found themselves with no option but to participate for fear of reprisals from those who were directly implicated. Although the initial briefings given to the media who camped at the prison gates all night was that there was an apparent hostage taking, subsequent briefings the next day strongly suggested that there may not have actually been a hostage.

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