New documents released by the Information Transparency Project give readers a glimpse into the preparations made by the Correctional Service Canada for an attempted construction shutdown at Collins Bay Institution for Prisoners Justice Day on August 10, 2012. The heavily-redacted 225 pages of briefings, reports, and email communications give a (very partial) play-by-play of the co-ordinated effort to brace for ‘anarchist protests’ at prisons across Ontario and Quebec.
We have done an initial reading and here are some highlights:
- Led by the Assistant Director of Operations at Ontario Regional Headquarters, a team of CSC managers checked the EPIC website daily and engaged in regular meetings with communications specialists, high level security analysts, and various police agencies in the lead-up to August 10th.
- Separate contingency plans were reviewed and put in place for Collins Bay, Frontenac, Millhaven, Bath and Grand Valley Institutions, where possible protests were anticipated.
- Contractors were advised of the shutdown threat and forced to decide on their own whether or not to work, because CSC didn’t want to be billed.
- Staff at Collins Bay Institution were told to park elsewhere.
- Official briefings were prepared for both the Regional Deputy Commissioner and Minister of Public Safety.
- For the day of, CSC rented concrete barriers for crowd control, prepared letters requesting arrests of individuals trespassing on institutional property, provided a command centre for a massive police mobilization at Giant Tiger including the O.P.P.’s Provincial Liaison Team (the legacy organization of the Aboriginal Relations Team), and pre-emptively arrested one individual on parole for suspected ties to EPIC.
The Access to Information request also captured a few documents of interest regarding PJD preparations inside prisons. For example:
- Of approximately 500 prisoners at Collins Bay, only 3 prisoners worked on August 10th, and they were all canteen workers; our understanding is that the canteen is usually allowed to open during prisoner strikes because of the vital services it provides to the population.
- We can also observe a lengthy back-and-forth between headquarters and prisons about the changing policy towards PJD clothing, which has a long tradition in Ontario. The designs developed by the Collins Bay Inmate Committee prompted a discussion about whether they would be accepted and Scott Edwards, Director Operations at Regional Headquarters, explains that “t-shirts, caps, etc… for Prisoners Justice Day are NOT being supported this year … In essence we are out of the PJD business.” Inmates at Joyceville Institution were recently denied a class-action lawsuit on this matter.
- Documents show officials at various institutions intercepting communications between inmate committees trying to build support for legal action and contemplating whether to allow the mail through or not.
- A letter from CSC Commissioner Don Head to Inmate Committee lawyer Todd Sloan denies that formally-planned PJD activites were being obstructed, while notes from a meeting between an inmate committee and representatives of the warden clearly state that “nothing formal or sanctioned by management could be offered during the day … possibly something could be arranged in the evening.”