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While placing Mr. Chow on screened visits is a less restrictive alternative than suspending his visits altogether, it is not at all clear why there is any justification for placing Mr. Chow on screened visits for three months. The allegations regarding smuggling of food into the institution was specific to the private family visit situation and there was no suggestion that Mr. Chow had previously tried to smuggle cigarettes in through open visits. His alleged possession of unauthorized items was being dealt with in disciplinary court and there was no assessment by the visit review board whether there was a risk at future open visits that Mr. Chow would again attempt to smuggle cigarettes into the institution. The decision to place him on screened visits was quite clearly a further disciplinary measure which had nothing to do with risk prevention. Moreover, it was a disciplinary measure taken prior to any formal determination of whether Mr. Chow was guilty of what was alleged against him. Mr. Chow was not at the visit review board and therefore his account of what had happened was not available to the board.

A month after the visit review board hearing at which his private family and open visits were suspended, I interviewed Mr. Chow. His account took issue with the allegations placed before the visit review board that he had attempted to smuggle items back into the institution, that he had been rude to staff and that he had left the visiting trailer in a mess.

Well, I just finished my PFV and it was about time to leave. We had to be out by 1:00. They came sometime in the morning and asked if we were all right and are we getting ready to leave. And we said, "yes, we would like to finish having our lunch. Can we have a little extra time?" Then what happened is the officer said, "yeah, I don't see a problem with that." So we sat down and had our lunch and then a little while later two different officers came to the door and said, "are you guys ready to go?" We told them that we just spoke to an officer and we were having our lunch, and we were just in the middle of putting the garbage away and just give us twenty minutes. They said, "well, no, you guys are supposed to be ready now." I said, "yeah, but I spoke to this other officer and he said it wouldn't be a problem, but I understand that you want us out of here and we'll make it real quick and we'll be out of your hair." So he says, "okay, make it quick".

They came back about 10 minutes later or so and we were all ready to go and we did our dishes and the house was clean and we tied up the garbage and put it in the big garbage bin, said goodbye to my visitor, kissed her goodbye and went to where you go in and they check your items of what you're bringing back and stuff like that. I never hid anything. I brought back some popcorn, sealed popcorn, bottle of Soya sauce, cigarettes and a chocolate bar. The reason I did that is because before I went to the PFV, I asked "could I bring back any of my stuff?" The officer told me that as long as stuff is sealed he didn't see a problem with it. I came back and put all my stuff on the table. I had put it all in my bag and not in my pocket. I knew they were going to search me, I wasn't hiding anything. He took out all this stuff and he said, "where did all these items come from". I said they came from my PFV. And he said, "well, you're not allowed to have these." I said, "well, I was told I was allowed to have these." All I wanted to do was to speak to someone who could let me know if what you're telling me is accurate or not. He got really irate about that and he said, "I gave you a direct order and you better take your stuff down right now. I'm not going to tell you again. Are you looking for trouble?" I said, "Listen, I'm not looking for any problems but I would like to speak to a keeper about this if I could."

The next thing you know there was four officers came rushing in and asked if there was problem. I explained the situation to the keeper. Because this officer just wanted to throw my stuff away in the garbage. I said, "I'll tell you what, you know, if possible can you put it in my effects at least? The keeper said that wouldn't be a problem. So I was happy with it.

So then the officer tells me that I'm going to be charged. Then I got a copy telling me that my visits were being suspended until they go through the visit review board. So I was thinking, okay, I'll just go explain my situation. I wouldn't think it would be a problem. Then they sent me a paper that says my visits were suspended, my visits and my PFV's and any kind of family visit were suspended for three months. Now I was kind of surprised by their reaction. I wanted to talk to the Review Board or speak to somebody so I can explain my side of the story. They told me that I'd have my time, but they never called me up to the visit review board.

I can't believe that the visit review board was told I left the PFV trailer in a mess. When I went in there, there were ants crawling up the wall. There was a strong odour. There were some dishes not done. The rooms were a bit of a mess and we spent a couple of hours actually cleaning up because when I go in, even if the dishes are already washed, I always wash them for myself anyways just to make sure that they're clean. I'm a pretty hygienic person and my visitor is very, very clean. We were very strong about that, keeping the place clean. And I don't know where they come up with saying that, making some accusation and justifying it as grounds that's the reason why they took away my visits? They can't add that after. When we left the place it was spic and span. (Interview with Steven Chow, Kent Institution, July 23, 1998)

I asked Mr. Chow what had happened with the disciplinary charge that had been laid against him for unauthorised possession of cigarettes. This charge was designated a minor one and Mr. Chow had a disciplinary hearing before a correctional supervisor. He pled not guilty and argued that he had purchased the cigarettes through the inmate canteen and that he could produce a receipt to prove it. He was, however, found guilty of the charge but in light of his explanation he was given the lowest form of sanction, a warning. By contrast, the visit review board, without giving Mr. Chow any opportunity to dispute the allegations made against him, imposed a far harsher administrative sanction.

One of the themes of previous parts of this book has been that a hallmark of fairness in administrative decision-making is that the rules be applied in a consistent fashion, thereby avoiding the alienating sense of arbitrariness. By this measure, decisions of the visit review board fall well short of the practice of justice. Consider the following case decided by the visit review board at Kent on July 14, 1998. A visitor to Mr. Spencer, following her fifth hit on the IONSCAN, was suspended from all visits for thirty days. Using the previous precedents established in cases like Mrs. Whitmore, the expected result would have been that she would be placed on screened visits with her open visiting status being restored once she had given three clean passes through the IONSCAN. However, in this case the Board went straight to a thirty day suspension. During the discussion reference was made to information that the visitor was rude and verbally abusive towards staff. The visit review board did not, however, look at any observation reports regarding the alleged abuse, did not consider whether this was an isolated event or part of a pattern of behaviour and, because neither the visitor nor Mr. Spencer was present at the hearing, gave no consideration to their side of the story.

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