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Over lunch on the first day of my visit in the staff cafeteria, I talked with a psychologist and one of the case management officers I asked the psychologist what programs existed in the SHU and he said that in addition to the school there were anger management and substance abuse programs. The case management officer responded with some surprise that he did not know that these programs were going on. The psychologist conceded that they were not at the moment because the area in which they are conducted was being renovated. The other problem regarding programs was that most of the general population prisoners had refused to participate in programs so that they were restricted more or less to protective custody inmates.

Earlier in this chapter I described how in 1990 the transfer process was changed so that prisoners were henceforth sent to the Special Handling Unit for a ninety day assessment to determine whether they should be admitted to the SHU. The annual reports of the National Committee describe what is supposed to happen during this assessment stage and after reading those reports and the Commissioner's Directive, it would appear that a lot of intensive activity takes place in terms of interview and evaluation by a variety of correctional staff. As with everything else in the SHU, the accounts of prisoners tell a different story.

Tony Sheratt was transferred to the Quebec SHU for assessment on July 23, 1996. He had spent over two years in segregation at Kent Institution prior to the transfer. I asked him to describe for me the differences between the conditions of segregation at Kent Institution and the conditions on the assessment range in the SHU:

No difference at all. The regime in the SHU on assessment was a 23 hour lock up situation. You would get an hour of exercise, of yard, a day. You were not allowed to participate in any of the programs because you were on an assessment range. You weren't entitled to the common room. It was basically a 23 hour lock up for over ninety days. You were allowed a TV and your effects the same as you're allowed in segregation at Kent and basically those first three months are just a continuation of segregation although they tell you that you're not in segregation. During those three months I saw the psychologist twice and my case management officer once. Those were the only people I spoke to. I was seen three times in ninety days. Their recommendation that I should be admitted to the SHU was therefore based upon what was in my files and very little on the brief time they spent with me. (Interview with Tony Sheratt, Quebec SHU, June 18, 1997)

During our interview, Tony Sheratt talked in a calm and measured way about his experiences in the SHU. My interview with Kevin Derouchie had a far different trajectory. Mr. Derouchie was two weeks away from statutory release on a five and half year sentence. At the time of our interview he was in the segregation unit and expected to be released to the street from there. I spent about two hours talking with him. At the end of the interview, he was still shaking with the emotion of what he had told me and I was shaking with trepidation at the prospect that the Correctional Service of Canada intended to keep this man locked up 23 hours a day until the door was opened and he was returned to the streets of Montreal. Kevin Derouchie was as angry as any prisoner I had ever met over his experiences in the SHU. He had filed numerous grievances, corresponded with the Correctional Investigator's office and had gone on lengthy hunger strikes to focus attention on what he viewed as violations of his rights. His latest correspondence with the Correctional Investigator involved an incident in which he was placed in the observation cell in the segregation unit, which he likened to the treatment of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.

They had me in that cell just like that for seven days. No water, no showers, no toothbrush, no comb, no fuck-all. You want to know why they put me in that cell? They put me next door to this bug. This guy just banged on his cell all day yelling and screaming and I got fed up from being there. I said "Put me in the hole. Get me off this range." They didn't answer me so I started banging on my door. Bang, bang, bang. They came to my door and they said "Are you going peacefully?" I said "Of course I'm going peacefully. I'm asking to go there." They put me in this camera cell, this strip cell and left me there for seven days. When I put in complaints about this, you know what the answer on my complaint was? They said they only left me there for two days. That was an outright lie and it made me really angry. I was close to flipping out but I used the channels and filed a second level grievance. Not only did they deny my grievance by repeating that I had only been there for two days but they said I'd been extremely violent in the process.

Mr. Derouchie described several other incidents which left him breathless in their retelling. He was particularly incensed at what he saw as the lack of accountability for correctional staffs' wrong doings:

Look at what happened in Kingston at the Prison for Women. They lied and they are held unaccountable. You've got to have somebody policing these people because otherwise they're going to continue to create anger and hatred to the point where people are going to get out of these places and . . . just look at me. Where's my chance of ever leading a normal life? They've tortured me. I hate. I lie down and I just think murder, kill, torture, revenge. It's all about revenge. Everything I'm doing, all the letters I write, all the complaints I send, the hunger strike, every fucking thing that I'm doing, it's only for one reason. It's revenge. Because if I can't get revenge this way, how else am I going to get revenge? The only alternative would be through violence, but I'm trying not to go there. I'm a human being, man. I've got rights, I've got feelings and I'm not letting anybody mess with that.

In 1995 I had left the Prince Albert SHU with a poem written by Robert Browning celebrating the redeemablility of mankind in God's image. In 1997, at the end of my visit to the Quebec SHU -- now Canada's only Special Handling Unit -- I also left with a poem. This one was written by Kevin Derouchie. Called Hatred's Fury, it illuminates the life direction in which one prisoner saw his experiences at the SHU pushing him:

Buried deep within, rooted out of pain
Growing to a passion, flowing through the vein
The mind becomes distorted, vengeance seems the way
Many years go by and only time will tell
Living, doing, dying and then you go to hell
For anger is a sin, it's fury won't let go
Buried deep within, but forever all I know.
(Poem by Kevin Derouchie, read to Michael Jackson, Quebec SHU, June 18, 1997).

[Kevin Derouchie is one of the prisoners interviewed by the CBC as part of its special on Canadian prisons. View his interview as part of Peter Mansbridge's story on maximum security by clicking here. Playing back the video requires RealPlayer (free download)].

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Kevin Derouchie