Despite an enormous infusion of cash in the past decade, the agency that runs the country’s penitentiaries has failed to deliver on longstanding promises to reduce prisoner deaths and has failed to limit critical security incidents that endanger staff and inmates, a newly released report card on the operations of Correctional Service of Canada reveals. “I continue to be very frustrated that CSC continues to deal with deaths in custody as sort of one-off events and not paying enough attention to the patterns and the common issues that contribute,” says Howard Sapers (inset), the federal correctional investigator. (Hear the full interview with Sapers, after the jump, in Episode 1 of the Cancrime podcast).
A veteran Liberal MP who once oversaw Canada’s federal prison system says at least one convict-run penitentiary farm among six shuttered by the Conservatives should be reopened and he’s pushing his caucus to do it. “I’m certainly encouraging it be done and I hope the government, when they do their financial analysis, see the worth of doing that,” Wayne Easter (inset) told me, in a recent interview. Easter was Public Safety critic leading up to the October 2015 election. He was solicitor general in the Chretien government in 2003, with responsibility for the Correctional Service. Easter said he planned to meet this week with the new Liberal Public Safety minister, Ralph Goodale.
Ralph Goodale (inset), the Saskatchewan farm boy now in charge of Canada’s federal prison system, could swiftly do one small thing that would send a big signal that the Harper legacy of punitive correctional policies will be dismantled. Goodale should move quickly to restore convict-operated farms at penitentiaries across the country. Six pen farms in five provinces were shuttered by the Conservative government in 2010, for no justifiably good reason. Really, Goodale may have no choice. A vocal and remarkably persistent lobby group based in Ontario has a signed promise (read it after the jump) from the Liberals, obtained before the October federal election, to reopen one of the prison farms. It isn’t much of a stretch to conclude that if reopening one is a good idea, it’s worth reopening all of them.
The federal agency entrusted to keep 15,000 criminals safely locked behind bars in more than 50 penitentiaries across Canada apparently can’t safeguard one of its key administrative buildings from simple burglars. The facility in Kingston, Ontario – a site that, according to my sources, houses dozens of high-powered weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition – was burgled recently by a thief who made off with keys to a prison service vehicle. The bandit got away largely because, remarkably, the Correctional Service of Canada regional staff college does not have a security officer on duty at the site overnight because of cost cutting.
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.
Contaminants that cause cancer, neurological impairment and a host of other ailments have been found in soil around a closed federal prison in Kingston, Ontario at concentrations as high as 93 times federal guidelines, secret documents reveal. Copies of the documents, two briefing notes prepared by Corrections Canada for Public Safety Minster Steven Blaney, were obtained by Cancrime (read them in full after the jump). One briefing note, dated January 29, 2014, reported that “widespread soil contamination” was found around 179-year-old Kingston Penitentiary, which ceased to operate as a prison in September 2013. The note explains that lead, arsenic and hexavalent chromium – substances described in the note as “hazardous to human health” – were found “in exceedance of Federal and Provincial guidelines.” Corrections Canada, which will conduct an open house on the issue today (April 25) in Kingston, has revealed publicly only that areas around the prison show “preliminary evidence of possible soil contamination.” Information posted online at a website established by Corrections – the agency that manages the federal prison system – omits many details contained in the briefing notes, notably that the contaminants were found at levels far in excess of federal guidelines.
A labour tribunal decision has exposed an ugly feud between Alfred Legere (inset), former warden of Nova women’s prison in Truro, Nova Scotia, and top bosses at Corrections Canada, in a case related to the controversial death of Ashley Smith, a teenage prisoner who choked herself to death in October 2007 at Grand Valley Institution,...
The CSC Pipes & Drums performed “Amazing Grace” from an upper tier catwalk overlooking the main dome of Kingston Penitentiary during the private decommissioning ceremony held at the prison on October 24 (video after jump). VIPs, including former staff, family of staff who died at KP, and Corrections brass were on hand for the formal event marking the end of the facility’s life as a functioning penitentiary, 178 years after it opened in 1835 at Hatter’s Bay. No decision has been made about the fate of the vast property, which comprises more than 40 buildings within the 20-acre walled compound on the shore of Lake Ontario.