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100+ Canadian Prisoners Attempt to Escape from Private Superjail; Racial Profiling Alleged

According to the Toronto Star, on September 20, 2002, more than a hundred prisoners at the privately-run Superjail in Penetanguishene, Ontario, used a battering ram to attempt an escape. According to the Ontario Provincial Police, the prisoners, who were armed with homemade weapons and equipped with crude gas masks, breached several layers of security. However, Central North Correctional Centere (CNCC) officials, speaking to reporters later that day, refused to confirm that a battering ram or weapons were used. According to them, the disturbance was limited to a 175-man housing area and all of the prisoners were back in their cells less than two hours after the disturbance began.

CNCC is run by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a Utah-based private prison company. It was designed to help replace 20 older jails around the province. The plan calls for two more superjails in Maplehurst and Linsday and envisions savings of $500 million a year.

The superjail has a total of 1,184 beds, 32 of which are designated for women. Prisoners at CNCC consist of about 1,000 serving up to a day less than two years and around 200 pretrial detainees. According to a confidential provincial cabinet document leaked in 2000 the Ontario government is planning to use the superjail as a private jail model implemented to alleviate chronic overcrowding in Toronto jails. The document stated that the government intended to review CNCC after five years of operation to determine how much to expand this type of facility.

CNCC has also been accused of violating human rights by racially profiling prisoners. The controversy erupted when CNCC began using identification cards which, in addition to a prisoner's name, photo, and ID number, also contained race, weight and eye color. The same identification card system is used in U. S. jails run by MTC.

Human rights lawyers and activists expressed outrage at the inclusion of racial designators on the cards, but CNCC officials denied that there was any racist intent.

"We're not collecting any information for racial profiling whatsoever," said Doug Thompson, CNCC Administrator.

On January 10, 2003, CNCC officials agreed to cease including racial designators on prisoners' identification cards.

"The only thing that will remain on the cards is the photo ID, last name, first name and, of course, his institutional number," said Thompson.

Source: Toronto Star

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