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Canada's Prison Chief Resigns

The head of Canada's prison service resigned immediately after a report was released April 1, 1996, about the abuse of female prisoners at the Kingston Prison for Women in April of 1994. "I have come to the conclusion that a change in leadership would be the best course of action at this point in time," John Edwards wrote in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister.

His resignation comes after a Canadian judge assigned to investigate the 1994 Kingston incident criticized the prison service, saying it gets away with breaches of individual rights that judges, lawyers and the courts never do.

The judicial inquiry was demanded by an outraged public who viewed a videotape broadcast on CBC television. The tape showed male prison guards, dressed in intimidating black "ninja" goon-squad gear, beating and forcibly strip searching female prisoners at the Kingston Prison for Women. One prisoner had her bra sliced off by a guard.

The incident occurred several days after six women prisoners had been thrown into segregation cells. The six were denied contact with their lawyers and were not allowed out of their seg cells even for an hour of daily exercise. In solidarity and protest, the other women in the prison began to set fires, throw human waste, make threats and attack guards. A male emergency response team (A.K.A. ninja goon squad) from another prison was called in specifically as a show of brute force.

Judge Louise Arbour conducted the inquiry and authored the April 1 report, stating in part: "The facts of this inquiry have revealed a disturbing lack of commitment to the ideals of justice on the part of the Correctional Service."

She said the entire 1994 incident could have been avoided if Kingston prison officials had handled the segregation incident according to the law in the first place. The decision to bring in the male emergency response team was also cited as clearly unlawful.

Source: Corrections Digest

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