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Canadian Prison Guards Hold Prisoners at Gunpoint for 10 Days

In January 2010, a Canadian prison tactical unit held prisoners at gunpoint during a search of British Columbia’s Kent Institution. “For 10 days, this team followed its own rules of engagement with almost complete impunity,” stated a report by federal correctional investigator Howard Sapers. “It operated in a virtual management vacuum.”

The incident began with an anonymous snitch note that claimed someone had smuggled a homemade zip gun into the prison in a stereo, which arrived via a package and passed an X-ray scan. Another note after the stereo was delivered resulted in the warden placing the facility on lockdown.

When the prison workers’ union threatened to invoke a refusal-to-work provision in the Canadian Labour Code due to security concerns, the warden sent in a specialized tactical unit in full riot gear. Sapers’ report cited videotaped evidence that the team used automatic rifles with laser sights, handguns, and physical and chemical restraints in an “intimidating, overwhelming and provocative display of force.”

The tactical team leader filed daily reports that described the prisoners as being “verbally resistant/physically uncooperative.” Sapers found those reports to be lies that were refuted by the videos. “Indeed, if anything, the inmates are seen to be remarkably restrained in their behavior, given that firearms were often directly pointed at them, only a few feet away.”

The lockdown and search failed to find a zip gun but did uncover a “sizable quantity” of drugs and handmade shanks. Regardless, “[t]he disregard that the Tactical Team displayed for the law and established policies and procedures resulted in serious human rights breaches,” Sapers concluded in his report.

The tactical team members were not disciplined. However, their unit was disbanded six months after the incident and they were assigned to another high-risk response unit.

Sources: The Star, Toronto Sun

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