(UPDATED JULY 14) It’s not surprising that convicts at Joyceville Institution, a decaying medium-security federal prison in Ontario that is racked by gang violence and tension, want to get away from the place. It is a brutal, crowded and decrepit facility built on a ridge overlooking the scenic Rideau Canal waterway on the northeastern outskirts of Kingston. Staff there recently discovered an escape plot, sources tell me, just the latest in a series of problems at the 52-year-old penitentiary.
The breakout bid was foiled when staff found that an perimeter interior fence had been cut and tools had been stashed on the grounds, sources tell me. The convict or convicts behind the plot have not been identified, but, in the wake of the discovery, the warden ordered all of the roughly 450 prisoners confined to their cells so that staff could scour the grounds and buildings, looking for more evidence of escape plans and also to search for weapons, drugs and booze.
(Lorrie Oddie, an assistant warden at Joyceville, says a piece was missing from a fence that separates two inmate areas. She said the prison’s perimeter fencing was intact.)
This kind of prison shutdown is known as an exceptional search, but these events are seemingly routine, not exceptional, at Joyceville. In April, the prison was thoroughly searched in the wake of a mini race riot that left eight convicts injured, including one prisoner, Joshua Erdodi ,who was nearly stabbed and beaten to death. Erdodi, a petty thief and small-time bandit from the Sarnia, Ontario area, has undergone multiple surgeries to reconstruct a battered face. Sources have told me that Erdodi, who is white, was targeted by black convicts armed with a variety of weapons, including weight bar attachments and homemade knives. Joyceville has one of the highest percentages of gang affiliated convicts among Ontario penitentiaries. Power struggles over drug smuggling, dominance and pre-existing street feuds fuel the violence.
Here’s a story the Sarnia Observer carried about Erdodi’s sentencing in 2010 for an armed robbery:
By Neil Bowen
A convenience store robber who was tracked down through his bootprints and Facebook page was sentenced to two years in penitentiary in Sarnia court.
Joshua Erdodi, 23, of Sarnia, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the robbery and possession of two stolen pickup trucks in January.
The jail time will be added to a two-year sentence Erdodi had already received for a similar robbery in Chatham-Kent in January.
In Sarnia, Erdodi pointed a pellet gun that resembled a police handgun at a convenience store clerk and demanding money. He fled with $470 and made off in one of the stolen trucks.
The horrified clerk was visibly shaken by the 3:30 a.m. robbery, the court was told, and couldn’t have known what type of gun it was, said Justice Mark Hornblower.
Erdodi wore sunglasses, a hooded sweatshirt and a distinctive black bandana with a white design. Bootprints left at the store were similar to those from boots Erdodi was wearing when arrested, and his Facebook page included a photograph of him wearing the bandana.
Around the same time period Erdodi robbed a Chatham-Kent store with a pellet gun, firing it once. He was connected to the Sarnia offences by people interviewed during the police investigation.
Substance abuse played a large role in his teenage years and contributed to his criminal record and the “unsophisticated, rash crime,” said defence lawyer Ken Marley.
The total sentence for the two robberies, taking into account time already, will be five years, Marley noted.
“I would like to apologize for my actions,” said Erdodi, who has a young child.
In addition to the penitentiary time, a lifetime weapon bans was imposed and he must provide police with a DNA sample.
Here’s the story carried by the Sarnia Observer on April 28, 2011, about the attack on Erdodi at Joyceville:
The father of a former Sarnia resident critically injured at a Kingston prison on Easter Sunday is questioning how long it took guards to react to the violent altercation.
Allen Erdodi said his 23-year-old son, Joshua Erdodi, who was serving a sentence at the Joyceville Institution, remained at a Kingston area hospital Wednesday in critical condition, with life-threatening injuries.
The prison was locked down Sunday following what Corrections Service Canada called a “major disturbance.”
“I spent five hours at Josh’s bedside (Tuesday) after fighting to get in to see him,” Erdodi said.
He said his son has 47 stab wounds and “his face is completely crushed.
“He has no bone structure in his cheeks, or around his face at all.”
Erdodi said his son also has several skull fractures and doctors have placed him in an induced coma.
“All of his teeth were smashed out” with metal dumbbell bars, he said.
“He’s got several cuts that were stitched, or stapled up, throughout his head.”
Erdodi added his son’s gall bladder was damaged and had to be removed. “His liver was lacerated. One of the major veins in his stomach was cut.”
He said an earlier report that his son’s arms were broken was not accurate, but that the bones in his right hand were crushed.
“They try to be optimist with you,” Erdodi said about what his son’s doctor told him. But he added he watched his sister die years ago after she was in a car accident.
“Her head injuries were nothing compared to what Josh has went through.”
Erdodi told the doctor he’s already gone through the experience of watching a loved one die, he said.
“The doctor just made a sad face and shook her head. She said, ‘It may be a miracle that something happens, but with that many head injuries . . . it’s going to be definitely brain damage, probably to the severest point.”
Erdodi said he was told that prison officials received a warning about the possibility of racially-motivated problems before Easter weekend and were monitoring the situation.
He was told racial groups that had been staying apart in the prison population were back to intermingling on Saturday.
Erdodi said he was told the incident began at 8:50 a.m. “Apparently, Josh was not removed from where the altercation took place until 9:30 a.m.”
He wants to know why it took prison officials so long to respond and remove his son, he said.
“Why wasn’t something done, if these guards were where they’re supposed to be? It should have been caught before they even got to Joshua.”
Erdodi also wants to know why he had to wait so long to see his injured son in hospital.
“I sat there for 24 hours with them telling me I didn’t have the right to see him — he was property of the federal corrections program,” Erdodi said.
“Well, for starters, that’s my son. He’s not the property of anybody. And, no matter what he did, he’s still a human being. In my eyes, he’s still a kid.”
Erdodi said he eventually spoke with the prison warden Tuesday who arranged for him to be allowed into the hospital room.
“There’s no way the father of a child, who’s laying there dying should have to fight for 24 hours to get the right to five minutes with his child. That’s so wrong.”
Those who may believe his son deserved what happened to him should put themselves in his shoes for a moment.
“What would be going through your mind as those stab wounds were caused upon you, or those bars were hitting your head.
“Think about that for a second . . . that’s somebody’s son.”