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Post-Script - The Unlawful Use of Force

Mike Csoka's advice on the importance of observing how prisoners relate to the staff in the living unit in drawing conclusions on their real attitudes towards rehabilitation is equally relevant in guaging the real as opposed to the official attitudes of staff towards prisoners. Earlier in this chapter I described the allegations that have been made in the aftermath of the assault on Mike Boileau of excessive force used by correctional officers in taking two prisoners, Mr. Barry and Mr. Badari, to segregation. At the time these allegations surfaced, Warden Brock had made it very clear that he would not tolerate staff abuse of prisoners and had launched administrative investigations into the two incidents. When these investigations were concluded he encouraged me to read the reports. Both the investigations on the use of excessive force had been carried out by Eric Hummerstone, a well-respected unit manager from the Regional Health Centre.

The first report found that excessive force had been used against Mr. Barry. According to the findings, Mr. Barry, after the assault on Mike Boileau, was heard making a derogatory comment which was reported to a correctional supervisor who ordered Mr. Barry to be taken to segregation. An officer went down to Mr. Barry's cell and handcuffed him. According to the evidence of another prisoner, whose cell was opposite to Mr. Barry's and whose statement was reduced to writing in a letter to the warden and found to be credible by Mr. Hummerstone, the officer pushed Mr. Barry into the door of the cell which caused Mr. Barry to hit his head. Then as Mr. Barry was walking along the corridor the officer pushed him with both hands in the back in a very forceful manner and at the end of the tier, kicked him in the buttocks. The findings of the investigation were that Mr. Barry, during all this time, was restrained by handcuffs, was not demonstrating any resistance or aggressive behaviour, and that the use of force was without any justification. There were further findings that the officer himself asked to speak to the correctional supervisor and told him that he had used force on Mr. Barry. The investigation found fault with the supervisor for not immediately relieving the officer of his duties in the unit and either requesting him to go home or placing him on assignment elsewhere in the Institution. The supervisor was also found at fault for not reporting this unlawful use of force immediately to his superiors. The report commended several other correctional officers for their actions in challenging the officer on his actions. In particular, a senior officer went down into the unit and spoke to a number of the prisoners who were very upset about what had happened to Mr. Barry and told them that he did not condone this conduct. This calmed down an otherwise very volatile situation.

Mr. Hummerstone's second report dealt with the allegations against another correctional supervisor for using excessive force against Mr. Badari. The allegations were that Mr. Badari, who was also segregated after the incident involving Mike Boileau for making provocative remarks, while being escorted to SCU was pushed into the barrier of the living unit. There was some conflict in the evidence here. The supervisor's account was that the prisoner was struggling and if he did go into the barrier it was not the result of any officer intentionally pushing him; the prisoner stated that he was deliberately pushed while he was handcuffed. The findings of Mr. Hummerstone were that he was satisfied that the two escorting officers, who were much larger and stronger than the prisoner, did not have to use the amount of force they did, given that the prisoner was in restraints. This investigation also dealt with the fact that throughout this incident there was a staff member video-taping the procedure which should have provided clear evidence of exactly what did take place and whether excessive force was used. When the video was requested by the warden the response was that there had been no tape in the camera, therefore, of course, no recording was made. Mr. Hummerstone reported that according to standing orders, the video camera is supposed to be loaded with tape at all times and to have a spare tape aboard. When he himself operated the camera without a tape he found that it flashed a signal to the effect that there was no tape and in his opinion it was impossible for anyone operating the camera to miss this message. He had requested the officer who was using the camera to report for an interview with him but was told that she had left the Institution early and for the next several days reported in sick so that he was never able to complete this interview. Mr. Hummerstone also reported that the staff member was living common-law with one of the officers involved in the incident. Mr. Hummerstone concluded that in his view there had been a tape in the video machine and that it had either been destroyed or erased after the incident. He concluded that excessive force had been used by the two officers and that standing orders had not been followed in relation to the operation of the video equipment.

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