It’s hard to tell who has it right when it comes to “explicit” entertainment that is accessible to roughly 15,000 convicts in more than 50 federal penitentiaries across Canada. Frederik Boisvert, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney was quoted today in a Postmedia News story as saying that his former boss, Vic Toews, instructed Corrections Canada “to eliminate sexually explicit television programming.” Said Boisvert: “We have been assured that prisoners cannot access this material.” This unequivocal claim appears to be contradicted by a procurement notice posted in May this year on a website that advertises government contracts that are open to bidders. The notice, for a $1.7-million contract to provide cable TV service to nine federal penitentiaries in British Columbia, noted that the service could not feature “sexually explicit” adult channels, but some basic channels could contain “explicit content.”
Say “prison weapon,” and most people think of handcrafted knives – known in convict parlance as ‘shanks’ and ‘shivs.’ They’re the most plentiful illegal weapons found inside jails and prisons because they are easily crafted and concealed. Often, they are crude – sharpened butter knives or spoons that have been flattened and honed to a point, for instance. But some convicts combine equal portions ingenuity, resourcefulness and desperation to produce truly remarkable prison weaponry. Frighteningly deadly and destructive arms turn up every so often and fortunately, most such weapons are ferreted out by prison staff before they’re put to use. Such was the case in 1972 at medium-security Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, Ontario, where staff discovered that a convict or convicts had crafted a deadly, working shotgun (pic after the jump) using common bits of hardware.
Sex slayer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo believes he deserves to live in the more comfortable and less restrictive confines of a medium-security prison. After 18 lonely years in the mind-numbing isolation of a super-secure segregation unit inside maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, Bernardo has asked for a transfer to a lower-security prison, sources tell me. Soon, he will have to be moved to a new home because Kingston Pen is slated to close. Bernardo covets a spot at medium-security Bath Institution, a complex of cottage-style dormitories on a sprawling 640-acre lakefront property just west of Kingston, according to my sources. Bernardo wants to stay in Ontario to remain close to family. He does not want to be shipped to a penitentiary in another province. Bernardo has been visited in prison by his mother, according to sources.
Muscling in prisons and jails is pernicious, prevalent, and for square johns – folks who live law-abiding, straight lives – a confusing concept. Muscling is akin, in many ways, to bullying, except that in prison, it is a means to secure drugs, weapons, sex, information or just about anything that one convict, or a group of convicts, wants. It’s rare to see a muscling incident examined publicly, with names attached. The heavies – gang bosses, drug lords and psychos who are most active behind bars as musclers – don’t want their corrupt schemes exposed because that threatens to disrupt supply chains. Muscling is the spigot through which contraband flows into prisons. A recent decision of the Federal Court offers rare, detailed insight into a fairly common muscling scam in which the family member of a prisoner is under pressure to smuggle goods into a penitentiary.
A critical point in the perimeter security at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, one of Canada’s biggest federal pens, is “malfunctioning,” according to information posted on a government tender website. According to the posting, the sally port gates at Sask. Pen, which holds between 600 and 700 maximum- and medium-security convicts, need to be repaired. The “sally port” at a federal penitentiary is a passageway usually big enough to permit trucks and other vehicles to drive into the prison compound. Sally ports are critical security points, in part, because they’re typically the biggest opening in the perimeter fence/s or wall that secure the complex.
Federal prison bosses in Ontario are struggling to complete urgent repairs to crumbling penitentiaries, while simultaneously juggling tens of millions of dollars worth of new construction projects, internal Corrections Canada documents obtained by Cancrime reveal (read them after the jump). The records, summaries of the status of major renovation and construction projects underway at prisons across Ontario, reveal that some projects are behind schedule, plagued by cost-overruns and faulty work. In one case, some repairs to the perimeter security wall that encircles Collins Bay Institution in Kingston “have failed and must be re-done.”
Federal Correctional Officers are sticking it to Treasury Board President Tony Clement, during nationwide information pickets today at more than 50 federal penitentiaries. Pickets are toting banners that mimic a billboard that was posted in Clement’s Ontario riding. It chides him for his apparent public support for 7,500 workers, at the same time that the government has dragged out contract talks. The prison staff have been working without a contract for three years, as of today, and they’re accusing Clement of talking out of both sides of his mouth.
I’ve been remiss in failing to update this story, first reported on Cancrime in October 2011, in which two convicts at maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary were beaten by staff. Late last year, six correctional officers pleaded guilty to the assaults. The staffers got conditional sentences and community service, for an incident that the prison service’s boss described, in an internal email, as a “significant incident” that threatened to bring the Correctional Service of Canada’s reputation into “disrepute.”