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The Clark Case -- "You Canít Get Closer to a Grape Than a Raisin"

There is rarely a day in the life of disciplinary court in which there is not some element of humour injected into the otherwise sombre tone of the proceedings. In some cases this was provided by the inventiveness of the prisonerís defense, in others by the response of the Independent Chairperson. Mr. Clarkís case illustrated both elements. Mr. Clark was charged and pleaded not guilty to possession of an unauthorized item in the form of a large bag of raisins and rice. Officer Peters gave evidence that he observed Mr. Clark coming into the living unit in his kitchen whites, holding a jacket that seemed to be weighed down by something. He stopped Mr. Clark and asked him what he had in his jacket. Mr. Clark said he had cookies in it. He searched the jacket and found the bags of raisins and rice. The officer said that prisoners were not authorized to take things out of the kitchen. Mr. Routley asked Mr. Clark was he was doing with the raisins and rice and Mr. Clark responded that he was going to make rice pudding. He was asked how you make rice pudding and he said, "You mix the rice, the raisins, add some cream and sugar and put it in the microwave." He said that he had cream in his cell because this was permitted and was purchased from the canteen. Mr. Routley asked him why he told the officer he had cookies and Mr. Clark said that he did have cookies, he had just baked them in the kitchen.

Mr. Routley summed up his assessment of Mr. Clarkís credibility in the following way: "It would require the sophistication of someone who had fallen off a turnip truck to believe that youíre so naive to think that you had authorisation to have these items." He found Mr. Clark guilty and said that in terms of sentence he was thinking of a monetary penalty. Mr. Clark said that as a result of this incident he had been suspended from his work for three weeks, which meant that he received no pay and was on lock-up for that time. Mr. Routley said that he wanted to send a message to people who boosted things out of the kitchen that this was not acceptable. Mr. Clark said that other prisoners who were charged with taking things from the kitchen were dealt with in minor court, and he noticed that on his offence report it had first been designated as a minor charge and this had been crossed out and the serious designation had been substituted. Mr. Routley responded, "Iím looking at that bag of rice and thinking how big it would swell up once it was soaked in water and as for those raisins, you canít get closer to a grape than a raisin, my friend. And it seems to me youíd have had almost a commercial quantity of whatever it is you were making." He imposed a $20 fine.

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