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

I attended the 30-day reviews on October 13 anticipating that, as with the 5-day reviews, they would be in name only with the decision about continued segregation having been pre-determined. As it turned out, the decision had been pre-determined but in favour of releasing the prisoners from segregation. The about-face resulted from discussions between Claude Demers and Jim LaPlante at National Headquarters. Mr. LaPlante, one of the CSC members of the Task Force on Segregation, as part of his responsibilities for implementation of the Task Force recommendations had encouraged both regional and institutional staff members involved in the segregation process to communicate with him on problematic cases or in situations where they were unclear on the interpretation of either the law or policy. Mr. Demers had communicated with Mr. LaPlante because, as he studied the files of the nine men, he became increasingly doubtful that the institution had a legal basis upon which to maintain their segregation. The discussion with Mr. LaPlante had involved a careful review of the facts measured against the legal criteria of the CCRA, at the conclusion of which it was agreed that there was no justification for any further segregation of the nine prisoners. Mr. Demers in consultation with Stan Beacon, the CO-II who since January 1998 has been primarily responsible for preparation of the written sharing of information, then drafted a written statement that was to be shared with the prisoners at the 30-day reviews and would form the basis for the recommendation to the warden that the prisoners be released from segregation. This document was used by Mr. Demers at the 30-day reviews as a template, which he verbally summarized for each prisoner, advising them that the Segregation Review Board would be recommending to the warden that they be released from segregation. The text of the document was as follows:

Mr. (name) was placed into segregation in the early hours on September 9, 1998 after his participation in a major incident in the unit poolroom where he resided. He and eight other inmates barricaded themselves in the common room and covered the windows preventing staff from assessing the situation. At the onset, the involved inmates repeatedly stated that they had a hostage and were prepared to inflict harm on him if their demands for drugs were not met. The situation was declared an emergency and the emergency command post was activated. Negotiations with the group were ongoing throughout the night and during which they continued to assert they had a hostage, and would cut off his finger if their demands were not met. At one point during the crisis a shot was fired to quell the inmates attempt to breach the confined area and gain access to the open living unit. After approximately 11 hours the incident was resolved and the offenders were segregated.

Your case has had extensive review with staff at the institutional level and in consultation with others at national headquarters.

Your case was reviewed in regard to continuing your segregation status based on the belief that your presence in the open units would jeopardize the safety of other individuals or the good order of the institution. Since your placement into segregation there has been no substantive information received, that implies you intend to further act out, or place the safety of others in jeopardy. Although, your behaviour has only been marginally satisfactory, while in segregation, there is no evidence to believe you will continue to conspire to be disruptive or that you cannot be safely managed in an open population.

Your case was reviewed in regard to continuing your segregation status based on the belief that your presence in the open units would interfere with an investigation. It is noted while in segregation you have free association with others involved in the disturbance during your daily exercise period. As a result there is no evidence to support your continued segregation based on that rationale. Another factor was the downgrading of this incident from a major incident to a minor incident by regional headquarters. This decision impacts on the rationale to continue your segregation.

Your case was reviewed in regard to continuing your segregation status based on the belief that your presence in the open units would place your personal safety in danger. You were informed there have been unsubstantiated remarks overheard by staff that there may be a risk to your personal safety; however, the preventive security officer has reviewed this information and it cannot be verified. Information received from the Inmate Committee supports the groups’ release from segregation. When asked directly by the Chairperson, if you feel your safety would be in jeopardy for whatever reason, by other offenders wishing some sort of retaliation for the disruption of their normal activities, postponement of a social, an extensive damage to inmate owned property Mr. (Name) stated that he . . .

Based on all the information available the Segregation Review Board will be recommending to the warden that at the present time you be released from administrative segregation with the following provision. When released to an open unit you will not necessarily be placed back to your former unit, but will be placed where the risk to safely manage your behaviour is appropriate.

At the individual reviews, Mr. Demers after summarizing the document specifically asked each prisoner whether he had any fears for his own safety and each one of them replied that he had none. The prisoners were also told that the Board’s recommendation would be conveyed to the warden and, subject to her approval, they would be released either the same day or the following day. In fact, all of the men were released on Tuesday, October 13.

The written text of the Segregation Board’s recommendation represented the first and only time in the five years of my research that the Board prepared a principled decision carefully measured against the criteria of the CCRA . Based upon my conversations with both Mr. LaPlante and Mr. Demers, there was no doubt that this principled application of the law was prompted by Mr. LaPlante’s probing of the grounds upon which the institution had hitherto justified its segregation of the nine men. That being said, Mr. Demers and Mr. Beacon deserved plaudits for their thoughtful drafting of the document. Indeed, after the segregation review I told both of them that I was very impressed with what they had drafted and that it should be used as a precedent for all segregation review decisions, not just those which had an exceptional quality to them and which triggered consultation with National Headquarters.

Can it be argued that the fact that Mr. Demers and Mr. Beacon, albeit with some help from National Headquarters, were able to apply the CCRA in a principled manner demonstrates that with sufficient training and support, correctional administrators can be left with the responsibility for segregation, without the need for independent adjudication at some stage in the process? In answering that question based upon this case study, it must be recalled that the decision of October 13 was rendered 18 months after the release of the Task Force on Segregation and fully nine months after the special training session on Segregation and the Law. Furthermore, the segregation review process at Kent had been the subject of particular scrutiny at both Regional and National Headquarters as a result of the audit process. Of even greater significance than these factors is my assessment that the decision to release the prisoners made by the Segregation Review Board at the 30-day review was one which could and should have been made at the 5-day review. A few pages earlier in this chapter in describing that 5-day review, I concluded that at that review sufficient facts were already known that should have led to the decision that there was no legal basis to justify continued segregation of the nine men. The rationale drafted by Mr. Demers and Mr. Beacon for the release of the nine men at the 30-day review mirrored my own analysis, but mine had been written three weeks earlier.

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