Prison staff reported racial tension among inmates at a penitentiary in Ontario the day before a mini riot that sent eight prisoners to hospital, Cancrime learned. One prisoner from medium-security Joyceville Institution suffered serious injuries and was in intensive care Sunday evening, according to the Correctional Service of Canada. Corrections could not explain what caused the incident, which it labeled a “major disturbance.”
“We really don’t know at this point,” said Lorrie Oddie, an assistant warden at Joyceville, which is located about 20 kilometres north of downtown Kingston in a rural area. “It’s really too early to tell what caused it.” (CSC release)
Oddie said she could not comment on the suggestion that it was a black-white racial confrontation. A source inside the prison told me that an official observation report was filed Saturday by security staff, noting that racial tension was apparent that evening. It is unclear if prison managers took any action.
Oddie said staff patrolling an inside recreation area just before 9 a.m. Sunday spotted an altercation that involved “a lot” of prisoners, though she could not be specific about the number involved. Staff ordered the inmates to halt and fired chemical agents. When the melee ended, staff found eight prisoners with injuries. They were taken to a Kingston hospital.
Jason Godin, Ontario president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said several convicts had been stabbed. Staff members were not hurt. Inmates used exercise weights to smash into rooms to attack other inmates, according to the prison sources.
Godin said drug use and violence, fueled by ruthless, gang-affiliated convicts, is a chronic problem at Joyceville.
“When things like this go down, more often than not they’re gang related and CSC continues to downplay that,” he said.
After the disturbance was contained, 83 inmates moved to an outside recreation yard and initially refused to return to their cellblocks, Oddie said. By late afternoon, they agreed to return to their cells peacefully, she said. All of the roughly 430 prisoners at Joyceville are now confined to their cells and all of the institution’s programs and activities, including visits, are suspended.
A special police unit that probes prison crime is investigating. Corrections Canada also will conduct its own internal inquiry.
Godin said the 52-year-old prison is overcrowded, decaying and houses some of the most violent convicts in Ontario.
“We’re getting the worst of the worst inmates at Joyceville because we don’t have the facilities to manage that type of an inmate in our open-style living units,” he said. Most medium-security prisons have been modernized and now feature open-concept cellblocks. Godin said Joyceville has the highest ratio of gang-affiliated inmates of any penitentiary in the province.
More than one in 10 Joyceville convicts is gang affiliated, according to documents obtained by Cancrime. The prison has roughly 55 convicts with gang affiliations including notorious street gangs like the Driftwood Crips of Toronto and several outlaw motorcycle gangs. Godin said the gang members are more violent and more active in drug smuggling than most other prisoners.
In early September, six visitors were caught on one day trying to smuggle $30,000 worth of marijuana, tobacco and drug paraphernalia into the prison.
(This story appeared first at Canada.com)