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The Heide Case

Mr. Heide was one of the prisoners in whose cells weapons were found. Three days after the search, on June 15, Mr. Heide was taken to segregation, where two hours later he was served with a Notification of Recommendation for Involuntary Transfer to Kent. On his arrival at Kent, he was placed in segregation, where he remained for the next three weeks. The reasons for his transfer, set out in the notification, were these:

(1) During a search of your cell on 94.06.12 a piece of contraband metal was found. This item has been examined by several staff members knowledgeable in firearms and it is believed to be a firing pin;

(2) Several other items of contraband were seized including screwdrivers, pliers, a nut driver, scissors and a handmade hammer;

(3) You have been charged with possession of these items;

(4) Your behaviour is considered to be unacceptable at a medium security facility. Your security classification has been revised to maximum security. (Notification of Recommendation for Involuntary Transfer, Matsqui Institution, June 15, 1994)

On June 17, Mr. Heide received a progress summary supporting the recommendation of involuntary transfer. It stated:

Mr. Heide is currently serving a sentence for numerous impaired driving offences (times 12), theft under, driving while disqualified (times four), breach of conditions, driver with over 80 mg, fail to stop at the scene of an accident, and escape lawful custody. To date Mr. Heide has completed the offender substance abuse program and participates in institutional Alcoholics Anonymous meetings but he continues to pose a high risk of re-offending as he only recently began addressing his problems. During his previous incarcerations Mr. Heide did not address his alcohol abuse which he had denied until now. Mr. Heide is volatile to re-offend and is considered a high risk to the public safety. Furthermore, it appears that Mr. Heide is involved in the manufacturing of "zip guns" within the institution which could present serious concerns to the public safety. (Progress Summary, Matsqui Institution, June 17, 1994)

Mr. Heide prepared a written rebuttal disputing the allegation that he was a high risk to public safety.

The issue I'm deeply concerned of is where it states; it appears that Mr. Heide is involved in the manufacturing of zip guns. How, where or why they'd ever place that in a report about me is beyond me because I've never, ever owned a gun in my entire life let alone tried to build one, so that affected me harshly as I definitely do not have any use for such an object and definitely wouldn't jeopardize my release by doing it for someone else. If such an object were in my cell, knowing fully that there was a major search in effect, I'm sure I wouldn't of had something like that out in the open because I could have thrown it out the cell window before my cell was searched. The object they claim to be a firing pin is a countersinker for my hobbies as I have a wood permit and build little boxes for nails and screws as well as the odd jewellery box, so that also is why I had a home-made hammer, screwdriver, socket driver and scissors. I just inherited these from someone who got released and had no real use for them so they simply just laid around. I'd like to also mention all these contraband items are contraband seemingly while in my possession, but it's not contraband if you purchase them from Canadian Tire or Pro Hardware and had them in your cell for hobbies. So I'll admit I'm guilty of having these items in my possession but I won't admit to what they claim is a firing pin. I'd like to mention on numerous amount of times my cell was searched and none of these items were then confiscated or even brought to my attention, but yet now I've lost my security rating, pay, job and a chance of going to camps. (Rebuttal of Roy Heide, July 4, 1994)

On June 22, Mr. Heide, along with a number of the other prisoners who had been transferred from Matsqui to Kent, appeared before a special sitting of the Disciplinary Board at Kent Institution presided over by Mr. Routley. Mr. Heide's case was set down for hearing at Matsqui on July 6. Prior to that, there were some remarkable developments. Maria Parton, the Transfer Co-ordinator at Matsqui, came to Kent to serve Mr. Heide and the other prisoners who had been transferred with their progress summaries. In the middle of her interview with Mr. Heide, one of the Kent unit managers came into the room and advised her that Matsqui had agreed to take Mr. Heide back. Ms. Parton had no prior knowledge of the decision, and she told me later that she was embarrassed by this announcement in the middle of the interview.

Ms. Parton told me this sudden reversal likely stemmed from an incident at Matsqui the previous week, in which a prisoner had assaulted a staff member and then been placed in segregation. When he flooded his cell, a decision was made to transfer him to Kent. But because both Matsqui and Kent were full, transfers could be made only on a one-for-one basis. In other words, if Matsqui wanted to transfer another prisoner to Kent, someone from Kent had to be transferred back to Matsqui. Ms. Parton's theory was confirmed by a unit manager at Kent. Mr. Heide's transfer package was the weakest of those recently transferred, he said, and his return to Matsqui was a practical expedient for having Kent accept a more urgent involuntary transfer. Mr. Heide was supposed to be transferred on June 30, but due to a clerical error this did not take place until July 5. He therefore spent Canada Day 1994 in a segregation cell at Kent instead of in his cell in the general population at Matsqui.

On July 6, Mr. Heide appeared in disciplinary court at Matsqui before Mr. Routley on the charge that had precipitated his transfer to Kent. Mr. Heide said he was prepared to plead guilty to possession of all of the items except the alleged firing pin. He said he worked in the prison garage and collected pieces there for his hobby work. Mr. Routley -- who in his pre-lawyer life had been a mechanic -- examined the piece of metal as Mr. Heide explained it was a piece taken from an old lawn-mower motor that he used as a countersink. Mr. Routley said he doubted the piece of metal had sufficient weight to be used as a firing pin, and in light of Mr. Heide's explanation he reduced the charge to a minor one. As to sentence, Mr. Routley said, he felt a warning would be appropriate.

The IPSO office at Matsqui had not been directly involved in Mr. Heide's transfer, and prior to the discovery of the alleged firing pin they had no information on him. When I asked the charging officer why he thought the piece of metal might have been a firing pin, he replied that he had searched dozens of cells that week. When he found the items in Mr. Heide's cell he didn't think too much about the piece of metal. While he was writing up the charge, however, he looked at it again and thought it could be in the process of being made into a firing pin. He had not come to any definite conclusions, and that was why he had used the words "possible firing pin." The officer had had no previous dealings with Mr. Heide and had nothing to do with the transfer recommendation. Nobody had consulted him after he filed the offence report.

I completed my investigation by talking to warden Brock about the case. He told me that the lock-down and general search had resulted in the seizure of about twenty shanks, which indicated to him a lamentable lack of contraband control. When he was advised that the piece of metal in Mr. Heide's cell was likely a firing pin for a zip gun, he felt no hesitation in determining that a transfer to Kent was necessary and justified. In a climate of institutional crackdown, a piece of metal for which there was a perfectly legitimate explanation -- a countersink for hobby work -- had been re-imaged as a "metal scribe which had been fashioned into what appeared to be a firing pin for a zip gun." As a result, Mr. Heide -- whose record revealed a recurring problem with impaired driving, and who was ninety days away from the end of his sentence -- was elevated to a maximum security risk as an arms manufacturer and confined in a segregation cell for twenty-one days. When he was finally returned to Matsqui, he was placed in a double-bunked cell; he had lost his job, and his pay level was reduced from four (the maximum) to zero. Yet the same evidence, when placed under the scrutiny of an Independent Chairperson, resulted in a rejection of the firing pin theory and an appraisal of the other items found in the cell as warranting only a minor charge deserving of nothing more than a warning.

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