location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 2 / Chapter 3 Operation Big Scoop / Monday, August 30 - Operation Fizz?

Monday, August 30 - Operation Fizz?

On Monday, August 30, Matsqui got back to the business of dealing with the prisoners who had been the object of Operation Big Scoop. At the morning briefing, the warden referred to Beth Parkinson's telephone call on Friday afternoon and stated that, to give prisoners three days' notice before the meeting of the Segregation Review Board, it would be necessary for everyone to complete the process before day's end by providing sufficient details of the reasons for segregation. It was agreed that Dianne Livesly, as the co-ordinator of case management, would review the cases with a committee of case management officers and the IPSOs.

Diane Livesly's committee spent the rest of the morning going over the files of the thirteen prisoners and considering their case histories. It was an embarrassing experience. In nine cases it became evident there was no information that could justify segregation under the CCRA. Case management officers provided glowing reports on several prisoners, stating that their positive behaviour in recent months had led to recommendations for transfers to lower security or the granting of parole; they were at a loss to understand why these prisoners had been identified as troublemakers. Even in cases where there was information on file regarding drug-related activities, it quickly transpired that this information was dated, in one instance going back over a year.

The review of the first prisoner on the list set the tone for the rest of the committee's discussion. The IPSOs said they had nothing at all on Mr. Amey, and CMO Brian Furman reported that his review of the files did not reveal any behaviour justifying segregation or transfer. The IPSOs suggested that the thing to do with Mr. Amey was to "sit him down, let him know about how he is perceived in the institution, and that we will be watching him." Ms. Livesly said that Mr. Amey should be counselled and that he should enter into a behavioural contract. Mr. Furman questioned the justification for either a behavioural contract or counselling and made specific reference to the duty to act fairly. As he put it, "If we do not have enough on him to justify segregation or transfer, what is the purpose of counselling or having him enter a behavioural contract? If I'm going to write a behavioural contract and he asks me what it is that he has done that justifies the contract, what am I supposed to say?" Mr. Furman pointedly asked the IPSOs, "There is no identifiable behaviour, right? Is our concern just that he is being too influential?" At the end of the discussion about Mr. Amey, there were a number of speculative comments around the table as to why his name had been added to the list of prisoners to be segregated. The only specific reason given was that he had an intimidating physical presence, highlighted by a Mohawk haircut. Ms. Livesly's minutes of that part of the meeting stated: "Left wondering why he was segregated." The decision taken was to warn Mr. Amey, then release him from segregation.

The failure of Mr. Amey's review to yield any information to justify segregation led one of the IPSOs to make this comment: "We had no knowledge that the guys would be boxed. We had been asked to prepare profiles on the high flyers in the institution, in order to discuss them with other staff and to start having these men tracked. However, we are now in a situation where these guys got boxed and what we are doing today is trying to justify the boxing. That to me is backwards." With these words, the IPSO was accurately describing the "shoot first and ask questions later" character of Operation Big Scoop. Several of the case management officers had not been aware of the code name of the operation; when it was shared with them, they suggested that it should be renamed "Operation Fizz."

By the end of the review of the thirteen prisoners, it was determined that nine of them should be released back to the population. In some of these cases, like Mr. Amey's, there was nothing on file to justify a behavioural contract; in others, negative file information, typically relating to drug involvement, was seized upon to justify a recommendation for a behavioural contract. This left four of the thirteen men whose cases were recommended for further review.

The meeting also addressed the timing of the release for those prisoners who had been recommended for release from segregation. One case management officer felt that they should all remain there until the Segregation Review Board met on Thursday. Unit Manager Irv Hammond believed they should be released as soon as possible; those who would be only counselled should be released the next morning, and those who were to have behavioural contracts should be prepared within twenty-four hours so those prisoners could be released later the next day, assuming that the contracts could be prepared within twenty-four hours. Another case management officer suggested that if the prisoners were released that day, Monday, there would be a very negative staff reaction, because the staff would not understand why these men were scooped in a big operation on Friday and yet, three days later, were back in the population. She felt it was important to brief the staff on what had happened, so that they were fully aware why most of these prisoners were now coming back to the living unit. Everyone agreed with this. However, it meant that those prisoners for whom there had been no reasonable grounds for being placed in segregation in the first place, and for whom no behavioural contracts were necessary, would be spending another night in segregation without lawful justification. As it turned out, even though the release of the prisoners was delayed until the next day specifically to permit a briefing, the release took place without the staff being briefed.

Before the meeting broke up, there was some general discussion about the events of the last few days. Mr. Hammond tried to put a positive face on the experience by suggesting it demonstrated an important systemic deficiency: information which was important for decision-making was not being documented in the files. "When we looked to the staff to help us identify the top ten troublemakers, we came up with particular inmates. When we checked their files, we find nothing. That says something about our intelligence systems and our documentation." While that was one explanation, there is another, which says something else about prison decision-making: a process in which staff members are invited to express their opinions based upon rumour and reputation, without supporting evidence, is inherently unreliable and is an unprincipled basis for making decisions about prisoners' lives.

Page 1 of 1

Interior of segregation cell, Matsqui Institution