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location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 4 / Chapter 5 A Deadly July: Prison Politics, Staff Realities and the Law / The "Hostage-Taking" and Smash-Up in B Unit -- September, 1998

Following the 5-day reviews, I spoke with several of the prisoners and asked them about the events which had given rise to their segregation. I was told that some of the prisoners had found themselves trapped in the TV room, having gone into the room to watch television because they did not have a TV of their own in their cell, or to play pool. When things started getting out of hand they could no longer leave without provoking a confrontation with the other prisoners. Not all of the prisoners had participated in the smash-up. The barricading of the door with the pool table had occurred when one prisoner saw an officer place something outside of the door to the common room. Although they had subsequently learned that it was a microphone to pick up conversations inside the room, at the time they had believed that it was an explosive device designed to blow open the door. The pool table, which had been pushed against the door at the beginning of the incident, had been upturned and placed against the door to shield prisoners from the expected blast. The story about the hostage had been concocted as a means to get drugs and deter the guards and police from storming the room and gassing or beating the prisoners. One of the prisoners had volunteered to have a small cut made in his leg to draw blood to put on a newspaper to try and demonstrate that the "hostage" had been hurt. The volunteer (much to his surprise) had then been stabbed by his best friend with a pool cue "to make it look genuine". The bloodied, broken cue, together with a bloody newspaper, was then passed out to the guards. Later, when as an act of further bravado, some of the prisoners threatened to cut a finger off the "hostage" unless drugs and pop were supplied, one of the prisoners, sitting in the back of the room in a drunken haze, had raised his finger and in a gesture of self-sacrifice had suggested "here, take mine." Although there can be no question that the institutional authorities were right in treating this as nothing less than a very serious incident that resulted in several thousand dollars' worth of damage, the manner in which prisoners recounted the "threats" to the "hostage" almost took on a Monty Pythonish character.

I asked the prisoners I interviewed why, when the RCMP had requested interviews with them after they were segregated, they had not told them that the hostage taking was a hoax? The answer was as straightforward as it was self-evident. "To come out of segregation for an interview with the police would have been homicide -- my homicide." The prisoners, talking together on the range and in the exercise yard, had decided that their best strategy was to speak to no one except a lawyer, hoping that the institution would not be able to prove which of them was involved in the smash-up. However, they also had no illusions about the consequences of their actions, whether they had actually been involved or not; they expected to be kept in segregation for a considerable period of time, regardless of the outcome of any disciplinary proceedings, although they hoped that they would not be transferred out of province, away from family and friends.

Ten days after the incident, on September 25, the nine prisoners were charged with the disciplinary offence of creating or participating in a disturbance or other activity likely to jeopardize the security of the penitentiary. A first appearance date of September 30 was designated, that being the next court date. However, notice of the disciplinary offence was not delivered to the prisoners until September 29 and, because at that point the prisoners would not have three days notice of the charge as required by the Regulations, they did not make a court appearance on the 30th. Instead there first appearance was put over to October 7, by which time they had already spent 21 days in segregation. At their first appearance on October 7, all nine prisoners pleaded not guilty and a hearing date was set for the following week, October 14.

On the same day as the nine prisoners made their first appearance in disciplinary court, I discussed their cases with Claude Demers who was acting as unit manager for Segregation in Kevin Morganís absence. He informed me that the nine prisoners would have their 30-day segregation reviews on October 13. I enquired whether there had been any discussion regarding the cases and he informed me that there had and that it was likely that the men would remain in segregation. One of the considerations related to the status of the internal CSC investigation that was being convened into the incident. The day following the incident the administration at Kent had reported it as a serious incident; in the normal course of events this would have triggered a national investigation. Regional Headquarters, however, had now determined that the incident did not fit within the category of a serious incident and that the investigation would be a regional one. The Kent administration disagreed with this re-characterization and were therefore reluctant to release the prisoners from segregation less it undermine their assessment of the seriousness of the incident.

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