Back to the SHU -- An Opening Salvo in the War on Drugs
A common theme in my interviews with prisoners who have undergone extended
imprisonment in segregation or Special Handling Units is that their experiences
from these periods have a long afterlife. Often it is difficult to outdistance
the attitudes and survival strategies they develop in these alien environments.
One of Gary Weaver's coping strategies precipitated his return to the
Special Handling Unit. Gary was placed in segregation following his visit
with Ms. S.R. on February 17, 1994. His case was being considered by the
Warden for transfer to the SHU based on allegations that he was actively
involved in the drug trade and was prepared to use violence against other
prisoners. The conversations during his February 17 visit had been monitored
due to information obtained at an earlier monitored visit that Mr. Weaver
had asked Ms. S.R. to bring drugs into the institution. On February 17,
Ms. S.R. had gone to the washroom to remove an internally concealed package.
She was confronted as she left the washroom and 15.3 grams of marijuana
was found in her bra. The RCMP were called and Ms. S.R. was charged with
possession for the purpose of trafficking. At his five- and thirty-day
segregation reviews, Mr. Weaver was informed that:
You are segregated because of alleged involvement
in the institutional drug trade. You have not yet been charged with anything.
You are currently being reviewed for transfer to H.M.S.U. [High Maximum
Seciruty Unit] and the investigation is ongoing. Your segregation will
be maintained pending this review and investigation. (Review of Inmate
Segregated Status, Kent Institution, March 14, 1993).
On May 5, 1994, seventy-eight days after he was first placed in segregation,
Gary Weaver was served with a notice of Warden Lusk's recommendation for
a transfer to the Quebec Special Handling Unit. The recommendation was
explicitly tied to the "War on Drugs," which became a significant part
of correctional policy in 1994-95.
1) On 94-02-17 your visitor was arrested at Kent
Institution for attempting to introduce contraband narcotics into the
institution. She has been charged with possession of narcotics for the
purpose of trafficking.
2) The seizure of the narcotics was a direct result
of monitored conversations that took place on 94-01-20 and 94-02-17 in
the V&C area of Kent Institution. These conversations, particularly the
one that occurred on 94-01-20, demonstrated quite clearly, that you intended
to introduce a variety of illegal drugs into Kent Institution, that you
intended to introduce as large a quantity of drugs as you could obtain,
that you viewed yourself becoming an important drug dealer within the
institution and that you would not hesitate to engage in violent acts,
including murder, in order to further your objectives.
3) You have a lengthy well-documented history of
institutional violence including a stabbing, assaults, threatening, muscling
and robbing other inmates. This past history clearly shows your propensity
to commit serious violent acts. It is your past history that leads one
to conclude your threats to kill, as recorded in your 94-01-20 conversation,
must be taken very seriously.
4) The traffic of narcotics within correctional facilities
is a leading cause of violence. If this violence is to be controlled,
the dealers and those responsible for the introduction of the narcotics
must be placed in a very controlled, restricted environment to severely
limit their activities. I believe these requirements can best be met in
a Special Handling Unit. (Annex A to Notice of Involuntary Transfer Recommendation,
Kent Institution, May 5, 1994)
Supporting the recommendation was a progress summary prepared by Barry
Owen, Mr. Weaver's case management officer, which cited extracts from
the monitored conversation of January 20. One group of extracts is cited
to demonstrate Mr. Weaver's willingness to use violence in pursuit of
his planned drug trade activities. In one passage, he states, "Nobody
burns me. I'd fuckin' cut their throat in a second." A second group of
extracts is cited to demonstrate "the depths of [Mr. Weaver's] obsession
with violence and abject coldness":
I could sit here and torture a cop for a week in
a garage . . . see what I could do with a cop. I could give him some fucking
tranquillizers so he can't go into shock and some local anaesthetic, like
I can freeze his legs up, and I can tie his head and I could clip his
eyes open and I could hack his fucking legs off and he's gotta watch and
he can't go unconscious and he can't go into shock because the tranquillizers
stop him from going into shock and with the anaesthetic you can't feel
a fucking thing.
Gary Weaver provided me with the copy of the transcript of his conversation
with Ms. S.R. After reading the document, I put it to him that the language
seemed to paint a picture of a violent, hateful man, justifying Mr. Owen's
characterization. I asked him why the Warden should not conclude that
these conversations did reveal "the depths of his obsession with violence
and abject coldness." He responded:
It is not an obsession with violence; I would say
that it is more an admission of my being desensitized to talking about
violence and hearing about violence. You hear so much about it you could
put together any scenario in your head, and it's no different than creative
writing. If you read a poem like--who would be a good example--Jim Carroll,
The Basketball Diaries. He is a heroin
addict who wrote a really good book of poems. It's vivid. Who else? William
Blake, he's written some pretty serious stuff. Jim Morrison, now there's
some heavy shit. Now if society were to buy into all that, they would
have grabbed all the poets and the musicians and thrown them in prison.
I picked up all kinds of wild stuff in the SHU. I pick up all kinds
of wild stuff in books and in movies. When you're sitting in the SHU you're
listening to talk about heads going off or people eating the wildest poisons,
guards getting sliced and people licking knives. I've got a million horror
stories in my head and I can articulate them and tell them to anybody.
Why do people go see the Terminator II: Judgement
Day movie? It's a turn-on to some degree, or it wouldn't sell millions
of tickets and people wouldn't go and see it two, three or four times
and then buy the video and add it to their collection. It's not reality.
That day I ran down the scenarios in a couple of movies I had seen, including
True Romance with Christian Slater and
Dennis Hopper, which is a pretty violent film. The other stuff with the
cop was another movie that nobody has made yet. (Interview with Gary Weaver,
Kent Institution, May 3, 1994).
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