location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 5 / Chapter 4 The Power to Search and the Protection of Privacy / The Strip Searches at Kent

In an interview with unit manager Mike Csoka, I learned that Officer Cole had consulted him following Mr. Hanson's objections that the manner of the strip search was in violation of the CCRA. Mr. Csoka was not able to cite chapter and verse of the Act, but he knew intuitively that parading naked prisoners down the range was not permitted. He therefore instructed Officer Cole to change the procedures so that prisoners were brought out of their cells with their shorts on, taken to the common area and then subjected to the strip search. He instructed one of his staff to review the provisions of the CCRA regarding the conduct of strip searches and, having satisfied himself that there had been unintended violations of the law, he issued Officer Cole a verbal reprimand.

The warden of Kent, Brenda Marshall, had been unaware of the manner in which the strip searches in the GP units were being conducted, and she had not realized that prisoners would be required to walk naked from their cells to the common area. She ordered an internal investigation, which confirmed that there had been violations of the CCRA. In upholding Mr. Hanson's grievance, she wrote:

You are correct in stating that the strip-search procedures used on March 23, 1998, were in contravention of both the law and policies. It is unfortunate that the acting correctional supervisor determined the potential for a weapon and ammunition in the institution to be serious enough to take the drastic measure of having you strip in the cell and then searched in the presence of other staff before permitting you to dress. We have taken measures to ensure this type of strip search is not conducted in similar circumstances in the future. The Acting Supervisor and other staff involved have been dealt with, however any actions taken cannot be shared with you, as that would be a violation of the Privacy Act. I can assure you this situation will not happen in this manner again. As Warden of Kent Institution, and on behalf of the staff involved, apologies are offered for the affront to your personal dignity.

We have conducted an investigation and taken appropriate measures with staff as requested in your grievance. This grievance is upheld. (Grievance Response from the Warden, Kent Institution, June 23, 1998)

The Warden's response afforded a measure of vindication for Mr. Hanson, but the blame she placed on the shoulders of Acting Correctional Supervisor Cole was not well received by Kent staff. In their view, Officer Cole had been following the procedures adopted by the ERT, and it was therefore unfair to suggest that he had made the determination as to how the strip search would be carried out. Staff felt that if a mistake had been made and a breach of the law had occurred, the responsibility should be assumed by warden herself.

The repercussions of the March emergency strip search were more far-reaching than the rumblings of staff at warden's response to Mr. Hanson's grievance. The filing of the internal investigation and the subsequent filing of Mr. Hanson's lawsuit triggered anxious reviews at both the Regional Headquarters and the Commissioner's Office in Ottawa. The accounts and videos of prisoners being paraded naked down the corridors of a maximum security institution sent off fears of another "Arbour," with the CSC again being pilloried for its inability to comply with the law. The Warden of Kent and the Regional Deputy Commissioner were summoned to Edmonton on August 21, 1998, to meet with the Commissioner and the Senior Deputy Commissioner. From all accounts, the Commissioner expressed his extreme displeasure at what had transpired at Kent and, in particular, that it had taken so long for the matter to be reported to him. Upon Warden Marshall's return, rumours flew that there would be an inquiry conducted either by the Correctional Investigator or by the CSC's National Investigation Team; there was also talk of staff being subject to disciplinary hearings.

On August 31, Warden Marshall advised Officer Noon-Ward that he was being suspended as ERT leader. According to Officer Noon-Ward and others at the meeting, warden said she had lost confidence in his abilities as an ERT leader, that on the night of March 19 he had showed fear, and that he did not display the values and attitudes of the modern CSC.

Mr. Noon-Ward contacted me following this meeting. He knew that I held him in high regard as an officer, and he was upset about his demotion from "hero to heel." He asked whether I could represent him in a grievance he had filed regarding his suspension, as well as advise him should he be called to answer questions by a national inquiry. I gave him the same answer I had given a number of prisoners, including Mr. Hanson in relation to his lawsuit: it was not appropriate for me to represent either staff or prisoners in a dispute with the administration while I was conducting my research. However, I said I was prepared to talk to warden and other senior managers to get a better understanding of the dynamics behind his suspension; furthermore, in the event of an investigation, I would make available copies of my favourable observations on Mr. Noon-Ward's performance in the line of duty. Within days of Mr. Noon-Ward's suspension, it was confirmed that a national investigation team would come to Kent, headed by the Assistant Commissioner for Performance Assurance.

On my next visit to Kent, I spoke with Unit Managers Mike Csoka and Kevin Morgan, both of whom had been at warden's briefing on March 19 in which Mark Noon-Ward received the mandate to deploy the ERT. I spoke to Deputy Warden Doug Richmond and to Correctional Supervisor Mackie, who had been at the meeting in which Mr. Noon-Ward was handed his suspension. I also met with several members of the ERT. Finally, I spoke with warden herself.

The unit managers who had been at the March 19 briefing were astonished that warden would later have faulted Mr. Noon-Ward for having displayed fear. Not only was Mr. Noon-Ward universally recognized as one of the most fearless officers at Kent, but his suggestion on the night of March 19 that the ERT be permitted to have firearms was prompted by legitimate caution, given that there were reasonable grounds to believe that a prisoner might be in possession of a loaded gun. What Mr. Noon-Ward had displayed that evening was a concern for the safety of team members. If he could be faulted, it was not because he had displayed fear but because he had challenged warden's judgement; his final comments when informed that the team would not be armed were, "If anything happens to one of my men, it will be on your head." After the completion of the operation, Mr. Noon-Ward had apologized to warden for these comments and she had accepted that apology, saying that she appreciated staff speaking their minds. The unit manager's assumption was that warden's meeting with the Commissioner and Senior Deputy Commissioner had precipitated Mr. Noon-Ward's suspension. They now found themselves in the invidious position in which, as unit managers, they could not be seen as undermining warden's decision by showing support and confidence in Mr. Noon-Ward's abilities but, privately, they did not believe that warden's actions were justifiable.

Mr. Noon-Ward pushed for an early hearing of his grievance. The date was finally set for late November, but on the morning of the hearing he was advised by warden that, effective immediately, he would be reinstated as ERT leader.

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Mike Csoka