Prisoner restrictions halted at Matsqui
Lawyers plan to take complaints to court
Mary Frances Hill, Vancouver Sun [British Columbia]
Published: Saturday, June 06, 2009
Corrections Canada called off severe restrictions on prisoners in Matsqui Institution on Friday after lawyers for the prisoners went public with complaints about deteriorating conditions.
Prisoners had been locked in their cells for 23 hours a day for nine weeks following a protest against an increase in work hours.
However, authorities did not reverse the transfers of 14 convicts who had come forward with prisoner complaints.
“This is a partial victory,” said lawyer Donna Turko, who represented the group along with prison rights lawyer John Conroy.
Turko said the convicts will again have access to toilets, sinks, phone facilities and common areas in their “ranges,” or wings of the prison.
She said the lawyers still intend to go to B.C. Supreme Court on Monday to deal with issues that have arisen from the conflict, such as the transferred prisoners and other rights issues.
Conroy said the 14 had acted as representatives for 220 Matsqui prisoners. Two of the transferred prisoners, Jean Paul Aube and Stephane Turcotte, had claimed in court documents that prisoners were getting limited access to food and facilities since staging the protest.
Some were defecating in their cells and throwing the waste out the windows, and the lawyers said the stench of human waste permeated the upper floors of the prison as record-high temperatures hit the Fraser Valley this week.
Turko said Corrections Canada had bowed to media pressure.
“Conroy said the prisoners have solidarity. When they held a strike vote, about 95 per cent supported the action. He said there is no threat of a riot.”
– Abbotsford New, June 6, 2009