Canada’s federal prisons have a growing gang problem. More disenfranchised young men who live on a diet of drugs and violence on the street are importing that culture to penitentiary cellblocks, where they can dominate weaker convicts, continue to peddle drugs and kill whenever necessary. Confidential Corrections Canada documents that I obtained – including a gang profile of the inmate population at Joyceville Institution in Kingston, Ontario – reveal that more than 10% of the prison’s convicts are gang affiliated and a dozen are outlaw bikers.
The problem with gang members is that they don’t just sit back and “do their time,” as oldtimers in Corrections might describe it. The gangsters, whether they’re outlaw bikers or street gangsters, like the Driftwood Crips, a notorious Toronto crew (3 of them in Joyceville), continue to do behind bars what they do best on the street – cause mayhem, run drugs and intimidate and threaten others. This means there’s often pressure on other convicts (a practice called muscling) who have outside connections to wives, girlfriends or other visitors, to smuggle in drugs, in order to avoid violence and stay safe (hear senior Corrections official talk about gangs and drugs in this previous post). The muscling and drug dealing is complicated by gang rivalries. Street beefs don’t dissolve behind bars, contrary to the that old adage about honour among thieves. Inside prison, Bandidos and Hells Angels bikers are still avowed enemies, meaning Corrections staff have to keep them separated and be vigilant about old grievances and unfinished business from the street. Gang rivalries often divide along racial lines too, meaning prison authorities try to keep the different races separated in different units and cellblocks of the prison.
GANG MEMBERS AT JOYCEVILLE
• Aboriginal gang members: 4
• Asian gang members: 2
• Outlaw biker gang members: 12*
• Prison gang members: 2
• Street gang members: 30
• Traditional organized crime members: 3
• White supremacists: 1
TOTAL: 54 gang members
(total popn approx 400)
BIKER GANG BREAKDOWN
• Bandidos: 2
• Hell’s Angels: 6
• Simcoe County Chapter: 1
• Last Chance: 1
• Outlaws: 1
Here’s my newspaper story from September 21, 2010, about a big drug bust and violence at Joyceville that is fuelled by the gangs:
Six visitors to a federal prison in Kingston were arrested and drugs worth $30,000 seized, the latest in a string of incidents that have turned the penitentiary into a powder keg.
On Saturday, during a family social day at Joyceville Institution, staff intercepted 300 grams of marijuana, tobacco and drug paraphernalia, according to Corrections Canada.
Five visitors were charged with possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking and one person was charged with possession. More charges are expected.
“Charges are pending only against offenders,” said Lorrie Oddie, an assistant warden at Joyceville.
As a result of the seizure and the unusual arrest of half a dozen people in one incident, the warden ordered the more than 400 inmates at the medium-security facility locked in their cells to allow staff to scour the institution. Visits are cancelled.
The prison-wide search turned up $3,000 worth of heroin, another 24 grams of marijuana and other contraband, including one homemade weapon.
The Whig-Standard learned that Joyceville has been racked by violence, fuelled by booze and drugs, for roughly six weeks.
Since August, there have been three assaults on staff, two incidents of death threats against staff, more than 60 internal charges were laid against convicts for verbal aggression and disrespectful conduct, staff found 200 litres of homemade alcohol, nine homemade weapons and there were six inmate altercations.
Since May, staff have found more than 50 homemade weapons.
Oddie confirmed that there have been incidents but she could not provide statistics.
“We have had seizures of brew, there have been weapons found as well,” she said.
Oddie said there have not been any incidents recently in which staff suffered serious injury as a result of assaults by inmates.
Internal reports obtained by the Whig show that the number of serious incidents in every category at the prison have increased this year over last year including assaults on staff, inmate fights and disciplinary problems.
There have been 14 threats against staff so far this year, compared to four last year.
Jason Godin, a senior official in the union representing correctional officers, said Joyceville is “completely in chaos.”
“The drugs are rampant,” he said. “It’s the population it has now – it has the highest ratio of gang members Ontario.”
Senior corrections officials have been saying publicly for the past several years that the system is struggling to cope with a gang problem.
“We’re seeing folks that are serving sentences that are much more violent than they ever were in the past,” senior Corrections official Chris Price told Ontario police chiefs at a presentation in Kingston this summer.
Price said gangs are a big part of the problem.
Information obtained by the newspaper shows that more than 10% of inmates at Joyceville are identified as having gang ties, including a dozen outlaw motorcycle gang members and 30 street gang members.
Godin said the gang members are ruthless and more violent than many other inmates.
“Seizures [of contraband] at Joyceville are way up and I think that can be attributed to the population we’ve got there, the young, gang-affiliated more violent inmates,” he said.
The problems will only get worse, he warned, because of a ballooning prison population at a time when managers are trying to cut security positions at Joyceville to save money.
“It’s a cutback in staff, meanwhile the number of incidents continue to rise,” he said.
He said Joyceville has particular problems because it’s one of the few medium-security prisons without open-concept style cellblocks being built across the country, so the most dangerous inmates are being shipped there.
Joyceville is a decaying, 50-year-old prison.
“That population is extremely violent and we’re trying to manage them in an aging facility,” Godin said.
As a result of the problems, there have been several recent incidents of staff refusing to perform work, citing health and safety concerns.
It’s uncertain when the lockdown will be lifted, Oddie said. Visits are cancelled.
» Corrections Canada news release about the weekend drug bust at Joyceville (does not include detail about past problems)