Canada’s Rogue Correctional Officers

It was reported in a Canadian media blog that this country’s prison system is under close scrutiny and in deep trouble since it was reported that a special team of correctional officers went rogue inside one of their prisons and held prisoners at gunpoint. The article read “For 10 days, this team followed its own rules of engagement with almost complete impunity,” the report from federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers says. “It operated in a virtual management vacuum.”

Such reports appear to be out of the ordinary on this North American continent but are in fact, hardly ever reported thus more frequent than is realized. Spending the last twenty five years inside the prisons of southwest United States, it can be appropriately said that this team operated within the orders given at the time by those in administrative control and are now back pedaling to save their careers. The adrenalin, emotion and frustration that rules the environment easily create this type of thinking and although a gross abuse of the prisoner’s rights, the first thing on the minds of these administrators is to “teach’ these prisoners a lesson about who is actually in control of this prison. This is the mentality that drove this special team to exceed normal boundaries and go “rogue” for ten days under tacit orders to do what needs to be done to restore order.

This action, prompted by a search for a homemade weapon [a zip gun capable of inflicting lethal force] assumed to have been smuggled into the British Columbia Kent penal institution initiated the mass lockdown last January and was followed up with a series of events that contributed to “disturbing events.” It is likely claimed that these “series” of events were well known by the management of this facility but kept under cloak and dagger conditions to avoid detection or reporting to the media. Today, loud outcries of unsanctioned terrorism and mismanagement of the special response team involved reflects the kind of tacit approval that exists within these prison walls when all is managed to be kept quiet. This should not at all be shocking to anyone who works inside a prison. Further comments on this event stated “Against the warden’s instructions on how to handle the incident, the team used pistols and rifles to remove compliant inmates, many handcuffed behind the back, from their cells to an area where they were strip-searched en masse. In some cases, searches were videotaped by prison staff showing full frontal nudity.”

Again, having worked inside the Arizona prisons where such tactics have taken place without the knowledge of central office authorities, this description evokes images that emulate conditions and conduct related to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Demonstrating a climate of fear and intimidation is nothing new within a prison setting as that is how these officers are trained to re-take situations that may have been temporarily lost to the force used by prisoners rioting or creating disorder to protest prison conditions. Once caught and on video tape, these same authorities are now blasting the officers with harsh critical words that would resemble lawful orders under any other circumstances.

Playing the political correctness banner on this matter, they lash out with strong public accusations of “The disregard that the Tactical Team displayed for the law and established policies and procedures resulted in serious human rights breaches,” it concludes. As the facts are gleaned through sloppy or shoddy investigative methods, this incident will pass with no damage done to the correctional system as they will find the proper scapegoats to punish for their unofficial sanctioning of such tactics when they are in control of the matter. Not mentioned in this report were the political implications that prompted such approval of this rogue conduct while looking for this zip gun. It is without any doubt that the warden and those involved in this “behind closed doors” conversation with the team leader encouraged such conduct without pre-designed intentions thus providing this team a level of unexpressed approval to act the way they did because of the way customs and practices are implemented during such critical times to find a weapon inside a prison setting.

These “rogue” officers were conducting themselves as they were trained and the use of the team’s weaponry, equipment and tactics is a just reflection of the mentality instilled on them during the training of how to “use of laser-sighted semi-automatic rifles, handguns and physical and chemical restraints was an “intimidating, overwhelming and provocative display of force.” Their attitude was to fight force [the mass of prisoners] with force. The report of this internal-fact ‘”finding review will no doubt reveal lies and more lies as the video taken reveals what really happened inside that prison. Based on this report,, the team leader’s perspective of the situation is based on the resistance offered by non-compliant attitudes of the prisoners as they were described to be “verbally resistive/physically uncooperative,” video evidence confirmed inmates, with one or two exceptions, were compliant and generally responsive to staff commands. “Indeed, if anything, the inmates are seen to be remarkably restrained in their behaviour, given that firearms were often directly pointed at them, only a few feet away,” the investigator’s report states.

The escalation of force was most likely encouraged by “rogue administrators” who let their frustration govern their decision making and created an “us versus them” environment. During times such as these, they justify their means to meet the end result… Unfortunately, this occurs inside many prisons in the United States as well and anyone who tells the story that this “is just not so” is lying and shielding others from the truth. Reporting the warden will step down in June, the article reports that “No Tactical Team members were disciplined. Six months after the lockdown, the team was disbanded and its members were given jobs on another high-risk response unit.”