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The History of Rock and Roll -- Time for Alternative Music?

The incident in the Matsqui segregation unit that led to the transfer of the three men was not unique in the history of Matsqui. These kinds of disturbances are part of a recurring cycle, and in the language of the prison they are often referred to as "rock and roll." As I will be describing in a later chapter, the Kent segregation unit has its own history of rock and roll, although these events occurred with far more frequency in the early ‘80s when Kent opened. Given the nature of segregation units, it would not be unreasonable to expect that, as the saying goes, "rock and roll is here to stay." However, reflecting on the incident at Matsqui in 1994, it is worth contemplating the possibility of an alternative contemporary music.

From everything I heard and learned about this incident, it was one that could have been prevented prior to the general disruption of the segregation unit and without the necessity of transferring the prisoners. According to Mr. Hanlon, the whole affair was instigated by the conduct of one officer in closing the food slots in what was perceived to be an arbitrary manner. This was compounded the next day by refusing to allow Mr. Binford to take both his exercise and his shower. Put in context, Mr. Binford went to the exercise yard on a very hot day and worked out. It made sense that when he came back from exercise he would be allowed to take his shower to clean himself up. However, the officer decided that it was one or the other -- exercise or shower -- and this, coming as it did after the closing of the slots, led to the disturbance. Even at that point it would seem that it could have been easily resolved had the source of the prisoners’ grievances been addressed. What this would have required was the presence of some third party to affect a mediation. This was the role I played on several occasions during my research but it could also have been handled by a member of the Inmate Committee, or a staff member who was well acquainted with the prisoners but who was not involved in the incident. Instead, it was left to the segregation staff themselves, one of whose members had provoked the incident, to resolve it. Predictably this led to escalation rather than resolution, with both sides taking increasingly adversarial positions. Under this scenario, when the preferred vehicles to resolve disputes are cell extraction teams, the use of force, and placing prisoners in strip cells, it does not take long to reach the point where cells are flooded, fire alarms are sounded and the only institutional response is seen to be an emergency transfer to maximum-security and prolonged segregation.

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