human rights / justice / prisoners' rights / Uncategorized

A Letter from Inside

My name is Michael K. Joyce.  I am 32 years old.  I have been in federal custody for approximately 10 years (14 1/2 of sentence totals) beginning in January 1999.  The following is a list of the some of the most recent abuses, assaults, neglects and violations perpetrated by employees of Correctional Services of Canada as witnessed or experienced by me.  For the record I have no drug or alcohol abuse issues and was of sound mind and sober at these times.

1)  CX officers punishing inmates for assumed rule infractions or “being disrespectful” – even if the guard caused the verbal altercation.  This is in violation of the “informal resolution” option – which needs to be agreed on by both the CX and the inmate.

2)  I saw a man get pepper-sprayed while unarmed and already secured in his cell.  The guard called him a “skinner” (a sex offender) and when the inmate retaliated verbally the CX drew his spray and sprayed the inmate for approximately 10 seconds.  He was left for about one hour before being taken to health care.

3)  A good friend of mine has a rare blood disorder.  He swells up in various parts of his body including his throat.  One night this happened – his throat was closing and he had to use his epi-pen.  He alerted the CX at 3 a.m. of his issue – he did not get medical attention until 5 a.m. – at which time he used his 2nd and last epi-pen.  On the way to the ambulance he went into anyphylactic shock and had to be rushed to the E.R.  He almost died due to the negligence of the staff – had they taken any longer he surely would have died.

4) I saw a Native inmate ask a CX for permission to go to the kitchen and too seek employment.  The CX responded with a rude and racial remark which sparked the inmate to in turn make a remark to the CX.  Both were in the wrong however the CX then shoved the inmate against the wall and clamped one hand around the inmate’s throat for at least 15 -20 seconds – he then forcibly locked said inmate in his cell for “being disrespectful”.  These types of instances happen often and are rarely reported.

5) Health care employees, nurses and administrators often give CXs medical information about inmates without or directly against inmates’ permission or wishes – such as medications, disease/infections or things said under patient/doctor privilege.  Often this leads to inmates being treated with indignity due to HIV or Hep C presence – and inmates being cut off or severely restricted in their use of needed medications -due to their being narcotic or addictive in nature.  Doctors are told not to prescribe certain meds although they are endorsed by the  C.S.C. drug formulary – this told to me by a kind nurse.

6)  During a recent lock down inmates were kept in their cells – denied all telephone access including legal calls and not allowed to shower for 4 1/2 days.  This then led to 1 or 2 inmates being disruptive and 1 lit a fire on the floor of his cell.  CXs entered the unit and put the fire out.  However they sprayed the beds and walls of the other inmates who were peaceful, destroying artwork, personal photos and documents – punishing all for the actions of one.  This is also a common practice to punish everybody rather than trying to investigate and target only those responsible.

7)  In late 2010 or early 2011 an inmate was murdered by other inmates during a brief riot.  What is not known is that it was gang-related.  The administration allowed two rival gangs to be together in general population rec yard – then as tensions grew over a week or two the CXs became aware of the problems arising but did nothing.  The things came to a head and violence popped off resulting in several non-gang members (generla population inmates) being assaulted with metal bars, weights, knives and other weapons.  One man died due to multiple stab wounds.  When the “innocent” inmates ran to the guards for help – enraged gang members hot on their heels – they were met with a literal wall of pepper spray.  The man who was stabbed and died laid on the floor for at least 20 minutes bleeding out before any medical attention was given.  He was pronounced DOA at the local hospital.  A CX later related to me in private that they (the CXs) knew it was happening and yet did nothing to prevent it so the gangs would be “locked up again”.  He felt bad because that decision led to an inmate’s death.   A 2 -year sentence turned into a death sentence for him.

8)  When a complaint or grievance is filed against a CX for the aforementioned instances or others the inmate (myself included) becomes the target of harassment, searches, threats and intimidation to withdraw them, and when I or others refuse – the admin people just deny them or list them as groundless of frivolous.  Sometimes a complaint is investigated by the same staff member who is the subject of the grievance.   The grievance system here is a farce at best.

9)  Inmates requesting to go to church or religious meetings are frequently denied because of employment status or ethnicity – even when proper permission is given (a written movement pass).

10) If cell power is knocked out for any reason it is often a week or so before it gets turned on -leaving inmates in darkness most of the day (no windows in cells here).

11) Double bunking inmates together despite the cells being way too small (in violation of their own regulations), and not performing compatibility assessments, as required in the Commissioner’s Directives re: inmate accommodation.  Then they use single cells as a privilege to be awarded – the proverbial carrot on a stick.

12) CXs and V & C (Visiting and Correspondence) use the ion scanner to screen incoming visitors for drugs.  However these machines create a lot of false positives resulting in inmates not being allowed visits – even though the machines are NOT to be used as a stand-alone method to turn away a visitor.  Some people travel hours or days to visit loved ones -and then are turned away with no compensation or detailed explanation.  However, CSC refuses to use the ion scanner on its own employees.

13) Last but not least CSC does not issue enough cold weather gear.  In the prairies it often dips below -30.  The thin nylon gloves and polyester hats are not up to the task of warding off frostbite for inmates employed in outdoor jobs or stuck in the rec yard for an hour.

Finally, yes we are criminals and we are serving sentences.  However we forfeit our freedom but not our rights or dignity – to take those away is inhumane and ultimately leads to angry men and women being released back into society.


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