Enforcing the "Bend Over" Rule
Although the CCR Regulations specifically
provide that in the course of a strip search a prisoner "may be required
to . . . bend over or otherwise enable a staff member to perform a visual
inspection," it had not been the practice to make this demand of prisoners
at Kent. Even the strip searches conducted in March 1998 by the ERT did
not involve this procedure. However, following the filing of Greg Hanson's
grievance and subsequent lawsuit, prisoners were increasingly asked to
bend over as part of a strip search. Mr. Hanson had this demand made of
him when he came out of the visiting area following an open visit. Although
he did strip and comply with all other aspects of the search, he refused
to bend over and so was charged with the minor disciplinary offence of
refusing a direct order. Prisoners who complained about the procedure
were told that they had Mr. Hanson to thank for the staff now applying
strip-search requirements "to the letter of the law." From the prisoners'
perspective, this was a clear message that challenging the administration
involved some pay-back. The full measure of that pay-back became clear
in October 1998.
On Monday, October 17, warden of Kent authorized an exceptional search
involving a strip search of all GP prisoners together with a search of
their cells. The order came following a series of drug overdoses, the
seizure of several containers of home brew, and staff observations of
a number of prisoners being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The
search procedures adopted in October were modified to bring them into
conformity with s. 46 of the CCR Regulations.
Prisoners were required to strip and be searched in their cells, under
the observation of two officers; they were then allowed to dress and were
taken to the common room while their cells were searched. The strip-search
procedure included a requirement that the prisoner bend over to permit
a visual inspection of his rectum.
The search commenced in A unit. Officers completed the strip and cell
searches of three ranges and began procedures on the fourth. Five of the
six prisoners there complied with the strip-search procedures and were
placed in the common room. The sixth prisoner, Jason Gallant, complied
fully with the procedure until asked to bend over and touch his toes.
He refused to do so. Officer Laurie, the officer supervising the search,
showed Mr. Gallant a copy of the section of the CCR
Regulations authorizing officers to make this demand. Mr. Gallant
read the document, handed it back and stated, "Yeah, well, it doesn't
make it right." He was advised that if he refused to comply, the officer
would have to suspend the search of A unit. Mr. Gallant held firm. Officer
Laurie then told the prisoners in the common room that the search was
being suspended and they were placed back in their cells without those
cells having been searched. Mr. Gallant requested that Officer Laurie
move him to segregation so that his protest would not operate to the prejudice
of other prisoners. Officer Laurie declined, on the basis that he did
not feel Mr. Gallant presented a risk to staff, the institution, or himself.
The general search continued over the weekend without incident until officers
reached the cell of Darryl Bates in D unit. Mr. Bates also declined to
bend over. He too was shown a copy of the CCR
Regulations ; he responded that this procedure had never been part
of the strip-search routine at Kent.
On October 19, three staff members arrived at Mr. Gallant's cell in
A unit and advised him that he was going to segregation. He was not given
any reason. Mr. Gallant was then handcuffed and escorted to J unit. Upon
arrival, he was taken to the common area next to the control bubble, where
he was asked to submit to the routine strip search required of all prisoners
on admission to segregation. As he entered the common area, Mr. Gallant
observed that a six-member squad of the ERT was standing fully suited
behind the privacy curtain. The prisoner was placed behind the curtain
in the presence of two officers. He was asked to strip; he complied. He
was asked to open his mouth and extend his arms; he complied. He was told
to run his fingers through his hair; he complied. He was asked to turn
around and show the balls of his feet; he complied. He was asked to bend
over; he refused. He was then asked whether this was going "to be the
easy way or the hard way." He responded, "Let's try the hard way." At
that point the correctional supervisor overseeing the search motioned
to the ERT squad; the privacy curtain was lowered and the squad immediately
moved towards Mr. Gallant and took him to the ground. He was handcuffed
behind his back and his legs were forcibly pried apart. The videotape
of the procedure did not show Mr. Gallant offering any resistance to the
officers either physically or verbally. A member of the ERT holding Mr.
Gallant to the ground is heard asking an ERT member kneeling between Mr.
Gallant's legs, "Do you have a good visual?" "I am satisfied with the
visual," the officer responded. Mr. Gallant was then allowed to get up.
He was placed in a segregation cell and the handcuffs were removed.
Following the segregation and search of Mr. Gallant, the same three
staff members went to Mr. Bates' cell and advised him that he was going
to segregation. Mr. Bates was told this was because of his non-compliance
with the search the day before. Once in the segregation unit, Mr. Bates
was placed behind the privacy curtain and asked to strip. He complied
with every demand until he was asked to bend over. At that point he refused
and pulled his underwear back on. Again the correctional supervisor motioned
to the ERT squad, who immediately overpowered Mr. Bates and took him to
the ground. The videotape, in the brief seconds before the ERT's swarming
of Mr. Bates, showed Mr. Bates facing towards them with a look of disbelief
on his face. As Mr. Bates lay on the ground, he was handcuffed behind
his back. One of the ERT officers then cut off his underwear and his legs
were pried apart to permit a visual inspection. The videotape also showed
that a metal detector was passed over Mr. Bates' buttocks. During this
procedure, Mr. Bates was heard shouting at the officers, "You fucking
skin hounds." He was obviously enraged, although he did not strike out
against any officer. After Mr. Bates was assisted to his feet, the videotape
clearly showed his features contorted with anger. There was blood on his
face from a cut caused by contact with an ERT officer's shield. Mr. Bates
was placed in a segregation cell and his handcuffs were removed.
Both Mr. Gallant and Mr. Bates were kept in segregation until their
five-day review and then released. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Gallant filed
a complaint, the first step in the grievance procedure. The text set out
why he and other prisoners considered the "bend over" rule to be so deeply
Until some lawsuits were brought against Kent, arising
from the strip searches that took place here last March, the general practice
at Kent Institution when conducting strip searches was not to require
prisoners to bend over, whatever might be written down in the CCRA.
Clearly correctional supervisors and other staff members conducting searches
did not believe that requiring prisoners to bend over so that staff could
look up their asses was a necessary aspect (legal or otherwise) of skinning
down the incarcerated. It would therefore appear that this added humiliation
. . . is intended to send a signal that the CSC will not tolerate challenges
to their power and authority over the prison population. This practice
is calculated -- if not by intent, then certainly by consequence -- to
humiliate, degrade, demean and dehumanize prisoners. Skin searches carried
out in this manner are calculated to deny and to desensitize a captive
population to its basic humanity and thus to "bend" both literally and
symbolically to correctional authority's need to dominate and control
. . .
When I was taken to segregation, I was again asked
to submit to a strip search. I complied by removing my clothes but refused
to bend over. The notice states "force was used to complete the search.
You physically resisted staff while they conducted the search." This last
allegation is unfounded. The Emergency Response Team descended upon me,
forced me to the ground and forcibly spread my legs. I did not so much
as raise a hand . . . I merely did not comply with the command that I
bend over. The video will show that I offered no assaultive or resistant
behaviour . . .
Since the "take down" I have been suffering from
considerable neck and back pain and cannot maintain my spine in an upright
position. What I need is access to a physiotherapist or a specialist of
comparable skills to determine the extent of my neck injury and to ensure
Corrective Action Requested
1. That there be a National Review or Investigation of the need for prisoners
to "bend over" and spread their ass cheeks, in light of the Mission Statement
Core Value 1 that "we respect the dignity of individuals, the rights of
all members of society and the potential for human growth and development"
and in light of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international
covenants to which Canada is a signatory. I believe this review is particularly
appropriate in light of the fact that 1998 is the 50th anniversary of
the Universal Declaration and that the CSC has now accepted the Yalden
Report of the Working Group on Human Rights.
2. That I be permitted to see a physiotherapist or
a specialist of comparable skills for the neck injury.
3. That I be permitted to pack my cell effects and
be returned to segregation but without the need to comply with the bend
over command. The explanation for this third request is that in segregation,
the prisoner understands that he has no privileges and there is nothing
to lose because quite simply he has nothing. In segregation it is understood
that a prisoner is less than a human being and can therefore be locked
up twenty-three hours a day in a cage. In general population, even in
maximum security, there is a semblance of humanity, some rights and privileges
and some respect for human dignity. However, if while in general population
I must live with the ever present threat that, upon demand, I will bend
over and, if I refuse, will be taken to segregation each time and violence
will be done to me so that my legs can be pried apart and a guard can
look up my rectum, I would prefer that I be placed in segregation where
there is no pretence for respect for human rights. At least then I will
have no sense of loss. (Complaint filed by Jason Gallant, Kent Institution,
October 26, 1998)
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