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Attitudes characteristic of an ongoing war against prisoners were not confined to the B.C. Penitentiary. On Mr. Sexsmith's first day at Matsqui, he was taken on a tour of the institution by a veteran correctional officer. After entering the kitchen, the officer said loudly, "Look at this bunch of fucking animals. We should take them all out into the field, dig a hole, fill it with lime and put them in it." On Mr. Sexsmith's first shift in the unit, as he was preparing to do his range walk, he was told by a supervisor about a particular prisoner who was a source of problems and given this invitation: "If he mouths off, drive that fucker between the eyes and I'll back you up." In his more reflective moments, Jesse Sexsmith had trouble understanding why he had remained in the Service. But he welcomed the changes which had taken place as he moved up the career ladder: the greater professionalism of correctional officers, the increased standards of education, the introduction of women officers, and the legal recognition and protection of prisoners' rights. He saw the release of the Mission Document and the enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as the marks of a progressive system.

Jim Mackie began his career as a guard in the B.C. Penitentiary in 1977. In 1979, he was among the first group of staff to receive inmates at the newly opened Kent Institution. He worked initially as a living unit officer, was promoted to a living unit supervisor, and then in 1987 became a correctional supervisor, a position he has retained ever since. At the time of my interview with him in October 1998, Mackie had held the position of correctional supervisor for twelve years, was the senior keeper at Kent, and was one of the few staff who had been there since the day it was opened. He had served under the six wardens that spanned Kent's history.

In explaining the differences between the environment of the B.C. Penitentiary and that of Kent twenty years later, Jim Mackie attributed many positive changes, particularly the lessening of violent confrontation, to increased communication across the divide.

In the 1970s at B.C. Pen there was a very militaristic regime towards the security staff and almost as severe towards the inmate population. At the Pen the ability for officers to walk amongst the inmates, to walk into the exercise yards wasn't there. Staff were as frightened of the most violent inmates as the other inmates were. They hid in cages up above them. So the interaction amongst the inmates and the guards was very poor . . . The con code in those days was almost a code of silence with staff. You told staff nothing. You imparted nothing. If you were friendly with staff it wasn't even a verbal gesture, it was sort of a nod as you walk by, like "you're alive, I'm alive" . . . I know that the prisons when I first walked in the door at B.C. Pen were so damn dangerous that you were glad to be home any given day. I know now when I walk in the door I expect to be home . . . At the B.C. Pen there were excesses in force. There was no such thing as use-of-force documents, you didn't record anything. You were told to go deal with the person and drag him to the hole. If the guy went hard so be it, if he went easy so be it. We've learned to do things better and it is paying a dividend to us now. Possibly there are some people that are saying there are too many rights for inmates, but if they lose those rights then possibly we lose the same rights. Because when they take away their rights, they take away our rights. (Interview with Jim Mackie, Kent Institution, October 7, 1998)

Matt Brown is another correctional supervisor who had a long history at Kent Institution and who remembered the attitude some B.C. Pen officers brought with them when they transferred there. When I asked him to identify the most significant changes he had observed since he began work at Kent in 1981, he focussed primarily on the changes in staff attitudes.

One way to relate the changes is a story that I recall when I first arrived here and started working. The majority of the staff were ex-B.C. Pen who had the old attitudes, and I can remember distinctly standing in the courtyard talking to some of these officers and, of course, we'd normally talk about inmates, which ones were bad, which ones were good. The old attitude was pretty well how we'd get rid of this inmate, how do we "hurricane" him. How do we bug him, and if there ever was a riot, which one were we going to shoot and kill? I remember those days and I remember distinctly about a couple of months ago talking to staff in the same courtyard and we were discussing inmates again, about their attitudes and how they are working, but the change was that staff were discussing which programs would help them, which would best suit them, how do we deal with an attitude problem with an inmate, where do we direct him on how to get motivated. I kept thinking people didn't talk this way in the old days. Now it's a whole different attitude.

A lot of people complain about the Charter of Rights, how it has relaxed the rules and allowed the inmates to get more things. Well, true, it has, but it has made our job easier in ways, too. It is a little bit difficult discipline-wise but inmates that are motivated are easy to deal with. We still have the problems with unmotivated inmates but we are always going to have that problem. Inmates are more willing to listen to me now, too. In the old days if an inmate talked to you it was "Hey, you fucking pig." Now they either call you by your first name or your last name. I remember distinctly the first time an inmate said "please" to me. I was shocked. Now it is common for inmates to say please and they are polite. That is a critical factor, being civil. (Interview with Matt Brown, Kent Institution, July 1995)

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The "Penthouse" at the BC Pen