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Gary gave me his theory of what the second-generation SHUs were all about:

Their whole objective is to put you in a situation where you feel like it's all over, you have nothing to live for, they have totally destroyed your identify and now you're hanging off the edge of a cliff. You might just drop into a total abyss, and then some guard or case management officer is there pulling you back over, and it's the same person that pushed you off the edge. (August 23, 1994)

In the course of another interview, Gary and I discussed the film Murder in the First, which depicts the solitary confinement cells in Alcatraz and the cruel and barbaric treatment of Henry Young when he was confined there in the 1940s. Henry Young had been not only isolated but kept in a dungeon cell from which light and hope were excluded.

That darkness in that empty cell, well, we had that darkness and empty cell in our head in the Prince Albert SHU. You were so constrained and calloused in a sterile environment. Sure we had a light, but we also had that same sense of hopelessness. I remember the goon squad coming down and putting a licking on me, and I thought for sure they were just going to kill me and that was that. I pictured myself in a body bag, getting zipped up and carted out. I was thinking it was almost like a cryogenics warehouse, where they freeze you and forget about you and then one day when there's a fix they'll let you out, but nothing's a fix. It's a dysfunctional environment. They've created the illusion that they have kept you stamped for such a long time that it's going to make all the difference in your life. Sure it makes a difference, but not the way they wanted. (Interview with Gary Weaver, Kent Institution, April 19, 1996)

Gary Weaver had much to say about the distance between the rhetoric and the reality of change in the Canadian correctional system from his time in the Special Handling Units.

There's a good possibility I could have been reached if they would've helped me wrap my mind around the fact that "Look, man, you've got some problems and you need to change here. Society can't manage a person like you amongst them." But it was this, "We're going to fucking break you. We're going to knock that chip off your shoulder and hammer you down until you get up and crawl." It was just so in your face. They would always say things about security. Well, I remember reading the Mission Statement when it first came out. It said there would be a plausible balance of control and assistance, which led me to believe that there would be security--there would be walls and there would be guns to prevent escapes and threats to the community--but there would also be assistance at that same level. The way it's written it presents this real nice ideology, things are going to change and be better, but I never saw the assistance. Every time I was in trouble they just rained fire and brimstone on me. I couldn't believe it. Like, for being disrespectful in language to an officer. I'm in my cell after what I deemed to be an argument with my keeper and they show up at my door with Mace and five or six guards telling me to get down on my hands and knees and face the wall and do I surrender? Put my hands behind my back. Every time they come to take you to segregation it's like Vietnam. They come whipping down your range with all their artillery and "do you surrender." It's a break-you-down attitude. I'm still affected by a lot of that even today. (April 19, 1996)

Life in the Special Handling Unit as described by Gary Weaver was an acid mix of anger and hopelessness.

There's no rhyme or reason to it, there's no explanation for what they're doing or why they're doing it, and they deny they're doing it. And I tried the appropriate channels. I was putting in complaints and I was writing letters to the Deputy Commissioner and I was staying away from all the shock-talk and bitterness, trying to address things maturely and responsibly. And he would write back not addressing the complaint or what I had to say but with stuff like "it's good that you're taking an interest in your rehabilitation. I strongly recommend that you involve yourself in the necessary programs." It was just like talking to a bunch of robots. I eventually stopped putting in grievances because I would sit down and put my heart and soul into explaining what the problem was and they would send me this goofy response and I would literally see red. This envelope would come under the door and my physical cues would just start going. One day I was reading an answer to a grievance and my whole body started shaking and everything in the cell was red, I mean crimson, blood-fucking red. Everything, and it was like I was looking through glass, and I started kicking this toilet with my bare feet. I remember that like yesterday, because you sleep with your head close to the door and the mail would come under the door and I jumped out of bed and I went nuts. I was kicking the shit out of a stainless steel toilet and I started kicking the door. I never even hurt my foot. Then I started smashing things up. (Interview with Gary Weaver, Kent Institution, June 3, 1996)

On other occasions, Gary would destroy his personal possessions as part of a strategy for self-preservation. In his cell at the SHU he was permitted to have personal photographs. The ones he most treasured were of his family and his girlfriend. When he knew the guards were coming to take him to segregation, he would take down the pictures, tear them up and flush them down the toilet. This served two purposes. First, it prevented the guards from desecrating what was most dear to him; second, having removed everything that gave him an identity as a member of a human family, he could play the role assigned to him, a violent prisoner, to the hilt.

I just destroyed everything so that when they came, they would have nothing to hold against me and I would have nothing to hold myself back. I've got nothing to safeguard. (June 3, 1996)

Gary Weaver was never imprisoned in the Penthouse in the B.C. Penitentiary or in H unit at Kent. At Matsqui and Kent, prisoners in segregation now had televisions and sometimes stereos. Interviewing him at Kent on two occasions in 1994, I asked Gary to explain why members of the Canadian public or the legal profession should be concerned about the conditions in segregation units.

Slowly but surely, you lose your sense of self and your sense of community. You feel incommunicado while you still have some communicado efforts to make. You still write your family, you can still make your phone calls, you can still wave to the guard when he goes by, you can still see the guys in the yard, but it's like you've taken a move to another planet. It's not simply what do you lose, but what do you gain? What you're losing is not just your sense of self but any sense of direction that you could be doing something else with your life, because you're stuck down here. If I'm out in population and I'm going to school, I'm focussed on something and I'm learning. When I'm in segregation, I feel I'm being treated unfairly, and I'm focussed on thinking on how to pay people back. All I'm thinking about is bitterness, because that's the only way to keep going. . . Something's been exacted on me that's unjust so why should I sit down here and think justly? Why should I sit down here and think about returning to this wonderful society and being a well-behaved guy when society is saying, "Go with it, do this to him and that's fine by us." (May 10, 1994)

The public says we've got TVs and stereos, so why are these guys whining? Things like TV and stereos make it look like it's getting better, but in fact they are the things that make it worse, especially to a guy like me. I know a lot of guys respond to all this physical comfort. I say fuck the TV and the stereo, because it gets away from the real issues. It's another thing that's being held above your head and it can drop at any time, so psychologically it's the same, if not worse. Take my TV, take the stereo. It just means I'm going to have a lot more energy to think about what's happening around me than to be brainwashed by some form of entertainment. (August 23, 1994)

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Gary Weaver in Millhaven Institution