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Gordon Pawliw had been in the Special Handling Unit for ten years when I interviewed him in February 1995. He had come at the same time as Rod Camphaug arising out of the same incident. He maintained that during the whole incident, in which a guard was shot by Mr. Camphaug, he had been locked in his cell. However he was suspected of being involved in the escape plan. It was also alleged that he had brought cyanide into the prison. No cyanide was ever found and he was never charged. Like Mr. Camphaug, he believed that it was his "bad attitude" that had kept him in the SHU, combined with several accusations that he assaulted other prisoners. In none of the cases was he charged with any offence although on the last occasion, which occurred in September 1993, he had been segregated and indeed remained in segregation until just ten days prior to my visit, a period of a year and a half. Like the other prisoners, I asked Mr. Pawliw to describe for me what it was like to do time in the Special Handling Unit. He explained to me first why that was the most difficult question I could ask him and then captured some of its most disturbing features:

I've never even tried to explain this place to anybody because they wouldn't believe me. I don't know what it is. It's a torture score, that's what it is. It's not a torture of the body but they deteriorate your mind psychologically. They talk about people having no empathy for others. Well, in a place like this the only person you can trust is yourself. You can't feel sorry for the next guy because you've got to look after yourself. There's always the danger of getting killed or hurt at all times because they've got people here that are fucked up in the mind or on a power trip. They don't know how to resolve their problems without violence. Violence rules the roost. That's the way it is. Ten years of that . . . I could watch somebody get killed right in front of me and it wouldn't bother me. (Interview with Gordon Pawliw, Prince Albert SHU, February 15, 1995).

Terry Somerton had already spent ten years in the Special Handling Units, split between Millhaven, Prince Albert and Quebec, when I interviewed him in February, 1995. His first stay in the Special Handling Unit followed an incident in which he had assaulted another prisoner. He was sent to the Millhaven SHU and shortly thereafter stabbed two guards. Terry Somerton was one of several prisoners who gave me an account of the conflicts that occurred during the first years after the opening of the Prince Albert SHU. To give Mr. Somerton's comments some context, I should explain that during my visit in 1995 I also spoke to staff who had been part of the first contingent of officers to work in the Prince Albert SHU. Most of them were drawn from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. They had been told that the first prisoners they would be receiving were those who had literally torn the Millhaven SHU apart and that it would be critical during the initial breaking in period that the staff clearly established that they were in control and not the prisoners, in order to avoid the problems that had beset the Millhaven SHU. I was told that some staff took this mandate to heart and that during the first years there were confrontations between staff and prisoners which "ought not to have occurred." Terry Somerton's accounts of some of these incidents, not surprisingly, were more explicit:

The guards were told that we were animals and we were sick and killers, so when we came here they just tried to break our spirits. They'd get on the intercom and they'd say, "Your mother's dead or your father's dead or your sister's dead." They'd say you got a visit and you'd get dressed for the visit. Then they'd press you in, and say "Go back to bed, you're dreaming." Then the mail man would come around and ask you why you didn't come down for your visit. It was just sick. They'd keep your lights on all night. They were into this hog-tying then. They hog-tied me on Christmas Eve 1985. That was pretty sad. What they'd do is put shackles on your ankles and they handcuffed you behind your back and then got a length of chain and they'd put the chain between the shackles and the handcuffs and they'd pull it tight and then they'd put a lock on it and then they'd lift you. They'd lift you up and drop you on the bed to tighten it. You'd be like that for about eight hours. That's real pain but there's also a psychological part of it. They'd come on the intercom, "Merry Christmas," and "How do you feel?." They'd do this a lot with Maddy MacDonald who was in the cell next to me for quite a while. They'd get him going and then they'd come in, beat him and drag him to the strip cell where they'd hog tie and chain him down and put a helmet on his head so he couldn't hit his head against the steel bed. It really used to burn the rest of us to see the way they treated him. (Interview with Terry Somerton, Prince Albert SHU, February 14, 1995)

At the time of my visit in February 1995, Lance Blanshard and Pat Pirozzi had spent the longest periods of time of any prisoners in Canada in the Special Handling Units. For Mr. Blanshard, his life has consisted of little else than being locked up. He told me that as a young boy of eight he had burned down a potato chip factory in Red Deer, Alberta and was placed in an institution for the mentally retarded which he had been told later was a misdiagnosis. He left the hospital when he was seventeen in March of 1975 and literally within months was charged with sexual assault of a former fellow patient. He was sentenced to three years. At the time of his release from the hospital he was unable to read or write or even spell his name. He served that three year sentence and was released a few days before Christmas in 1977 and from then until April 1978 was the last time he experienced freedom. In 1978 he was convicted of forcible confinement, assault causing bodily harm and possession of a weapon for which he received a sentence of thirteen years. In December of 1980 he took a guard hostage and was sent to the Millhaven SHU. In 1983 he was convicted of manslaughter for the killing of another prisoner and received a consecutive sentence of 18 years. Subsequently, he stabbed another prisoner and received a further three years, leaving him with an aggregate sentence of 34 years.

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