In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Ombudsman Looking Into Abuse at Kingston Pen Segregation Unit

Ombudsman looking into abuse at prison unit
November 16, 2004
CBC Online

KINGSTON, ONT. - The ombudsman for Canada's prisons says he's dismayed that a small group of guards in Canada's oldest prison are accused of abusing and degrading inmates in a new segregation unit.

Howard Sapers has been investigating several allegations at Kingston Penitentiary over the past few months, looking at issues ranging from cleanliness in the unit to the use of restraints.

The mental health of the inmates is also of concern to Sapers, since many of them have psychiatric problems.

Having inmates who are already troubled locked in their cells 23 hours a day with little opportunity to take programs offered in the rest of the prison could be adding to the problem, he says.

"It just gets worse and worse and you end up having offenders kept in custody longer than they need to be," he said. "I think [Correctional Service Canada] is aware of the problem but I think the short answer is not enough is being done."

Graham Stewart, head of the John Howard Society of Canada, says segregation units affect staff as well as inmates. They're closed, secretive places where guards are often bored with being locked up with criminals who have been labelled the worst of the worst.

"The system seems to tolerate abuse," said Stewart. "The more secret the environment, the less popular the people in that environment, the more likely the circumstances arise that you begin to abuse people either directly or indirectly."

Sapers is expected to address the issue of segregation and the effect it has on inmates in his annual report, due out later this month.


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