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August 1993: The Wagner Case - The Disciplinary Process in Context

The adjourned hearing of Mr. Wagner's case was held on August 11. At the beginning of the hearing, Mr. Wagner complained to Mr. Routley that he had been kept in segregation since he was charged with this offence over a month ago, pending the court hearing, and questioned whether that was lawful. Mr. Routley responded:

Well, I'm not looking at the particular paperwork that you're looking at, but I can tell you that the warden has the authority under the law to hold an inmate in administrative segregation, and the reasons for that are threefold: either protection of the inmate from parties in general population or protection of general population from that particular inmate or, thirdly, for the general security of the institution . . . There is no fourth reason that says pending the hearing of charges. It's a lot like being held without bail. When you told me that that's why you thought you were in segregation, I knew that couldn't be, because they can't by law hold somebody for that reason.

While Mr. Routley correctly stated that the Corrections and Conditional Release Act does not authorize detention in segregation based solely upon a pending disciplinary hearing, one of the important questions of my research was whether prisoners were detained in segregation for precisely this reason. That had been part of the customary law of Matsqui at the time of my 1972 study. Certainly Mr. Wagner was under the impression that it remained the case and his apparent willingness to plead guilty on his first appearance in July had been based upon his belief that he would thereby shorten his time in segregation.

Mr. Wagner's hearing moved to address the specific charge of which he stood accused. The following excerpt excerpt from teh transcript of the tape recording of the hearing gives the flavour of prison disciplinary hearings and illustrates some further connections between the disciplinary process and other critical features of the correctional system that affect the rights and interests of prisoners.

ICP (Independent Chairperson): We're looking at the events here of some one month ago back on the 7th of July. Inmate Wagner's been charged on the 7th of July under subsection (h) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, "fights with, assaults or threatens to assault another person," and this relates to an activity in the cell 3 South at 2030 hours. I wonder if you can pick up your recollection of the tale there and tell me what was said and done.

IW (Institutional Witness): I don't have my notes with me so where it began, Officer Laker and myself . . .

ICP : If I can just, before you start . . . Mr. Wagner, are you listening to what this officer says? Listen carefully. At the conclusion, if you can frame polite questions to the officer relevant to his testimony and the circumstance, I'd invite you to ask him those questions. If not, you can flag me to the areas that you wish to have examined. But while Officer Tate is giving his evidence I'd ask you sit quietly. Go ahead.

IW : Okay. That evening Officer Laker and myself were doing range walks as per standing orders and I was proceeding down 2 South and it was approximately cell number 21. I may be mistaken on the number. It was inmate Kwok's cell. I heard a buzzing noise, which is familiar to myself as being a tattoo gun. I looked in the cell and I observed inmate Wagner tattooing inmate Kwok's shoulder. He was sitting on the bed at the far back of the cell. I opened the door and there was another inmate sitting in the doorway, inmate Valenzuela, and they were all shocked and I believe some of the words were "ah, fuck." I asked them to step out of the cell and there was a bit of an argument between myself and inmate Valenzuela, who didn't want to leave the cell right away. He was sort of blocking my entrance into the cell. During this time I noticed inmate Wagner stick something down the front of his pants. Once I got inmate Valenzuela out of the cell I went into the cell and inmates Kwok and Wagner were still in there and I told inmate Wagner to turn over the tattoo gun, which he did. I then picked up . . . there was a wire that they were running the power off of a stereo, so I took the wire off that at the time and I informed all three that they were being placed on lock-up. About that time Officer Laker observed Wagner put something into his back pocket. I didn't know what it was at that time, and she told him to hand it over, which he didn't. We began locking up inmate Kwok and inmate Valenzuela, who both reside on 2 South. At that time inmate Wagner left the range while we were locking up. We followed him up to the third floor. He was in the third range south washroom with another inmate. I think he was washing off some ink on his hands. I'm not exactly positive of that. I told him he was going to be placed on lock-up and charged and the argument began at that time, that you either charge me or . . . He'd rather just be charged and not locked up, and I told him he was going to be locked up too. The argument began to get hostile at that point.

ICP [Independent Chairperson]: You're in the washroom on the third floor now?

IW : Yeah, he came out of the washroom and we were proceeding to his cell and the argument was continuing. He was walking into his cell at that time. He went into his cell and then I told him to hand over what he had in his pocket. He said it was ink. Well, at that time I knew it was ink from Officer Laker. So he was saying he had permits for it, and when I told him that as far as I was concerned he was using it as contraband and that I was going to remove it off him, he was arguing that fact and he didn't want to hand it over. The argument was getting quite verbal.

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