Through my late teens and early 20s – in late 70s and 80s – heavy-duty plastic milk crates had one notable use, as containers/carriers for long-play, 33 rpm records. Albums fit perfectly into the rugged, square containers that were designed to transport jugs and plastic bags of milk and other products from dairies to retailers and restaurants. It turns out the crates have an entirely unexpected use inside a federal penitentiary, as the raw material for fabrication of a sturdy and lethal prison shank. I dug out of my personal archive a photo I snapped of one of these marvels of convict engineering (inset, in full after jump), after seeing a recent decision of a Federal Court judge who tossed out the internal prison conviction of an Ontario inmate after a five-inch long Fibreglas knife was found inside the convict’s cell.
A correctional officer at Collins Bay Institution found the Fibreglas shank in the cell of convict Harmanpal Sidhu. Sidhu claimed it wasn’t his weapon but he was convicted by an internal tribunal of a prison offence. He appealed and recently, a federal court judge tossed out the conviction. Judge George R. Locke concluded that:
Also, a finding of not guilty should be entered because the ICP [Independent Chairperson of the Collins Bay Institution Disciplinary Tribunal] accepted facts sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to whether the applicant had legal possession of the weapon in question. Here, I refer specifically to (i) the finding that there was no evidence that the window sill where the weapon was hidden had been searched since the applicant had moved into the cell; and (ii) the finding that there was a risk that someone could place the weapon in the cell without the applicant’s knowledge. Therefore, based on the evidence accepted by the ICP, it is reasonably possible that the weapon had been left in the cell without the applicant’s knowledge either by a prior occupant, or by someone who entered the cell, either with or without permission, when it was unlocked and the applicant was not present.
Sidhu was awarded $2,000 in costs.
This photo (click image for larger version) shows a shiv recovered by staff at Frontenac Institution, a minimum-security prison in Kingston, Ontario: