Matsqui locked down amid protest fires
By Rochelle Baker – Abbotsford News [British Columbia] – January 26, 2008
Matsqui Institution inmates are confined to their cells after a group of prisoners set fires and refused to leave the exercise yard on Friday evening.
At 9 p.m. around 170 prisoners at the facility in Abbotsford refused to return to the living unit, and set blazes in the yard – burning garbage, foliage, and a gazebo, said correctional service spokesman Dave Lefebvre.
A negotiator and emergency response team were deployed, but it was 12:30 a.m. before prisoners were escorted to their cells one at time.
Lefebvre said the lock up was complete by 3:25 a.m., with no injuries to staff or inmates.
Prisoners were upset by recently imposed limits around recreational activities, and media reports that the correctional officers’ union fears visitors may using children to smuggle drugs into federal jails, he said.
“Within the last week, the warden has restricted some activities available to inmates due to security concerns,” said Lefebvre.
“It happens from time to time. If there is an area of concern in an exercise room or part of the yard, the warden can limit access to preserve the safety of inmates and staff.”
Lefebvre said it was not clear what aspects of the news reports the inmates were protesting.
“They haven’t yet given us an indication about what specifically in the media coverage was upsetting,” he said.
“But inmates like anyone else have access to media, and read the newspapers and hear news reports.”
Inmates will be confined to their cells until security can be guaranteed, he said.
“As a general rule of thumb, the institution will be locked down as long as necessary to do all the cell searches, and ensure inmate and staff safety.”
Matsqui Institution is a medium-security facility with 350 inmates.