Joel’s Blog: Weapons Search Lockdown

April 8, 2014

As I write this we are in our fifth straight day of lockdown.  We haven’t
been out of our cells since Thursday night (today is Tuesday).  The reason
for this lengthy lockdown is a “weapons search”.  The search was declared
on Friday, began on Monday, and just finished this morning.  We haven’t
been given access to showers since Thursday night and were only given
canteen orders today after the search finally ended (we usually get them
every Friday).  This lockdown has affected the entire unit: 6 ranges that
hold approximately 180 of us.  The guards claim they couldn’t perform the
search until yesterday because they were “short staffed”.

Since the start of my journey through the Canadian provincial jail system
“short of staff” has been the ubiquitous justification for locking us down
and taking away what little freedom we have.  To many of us, this weapons
search is clearly an arbitrary denial of our rights masquerading as a
security exercise.  If there is actually a dangerous weapon somewhere, the
guards are not acting logically to address that risk.  If there were a
dangerous weapon somewhere wouldn’t it make sense to find that weapon
immediately instead of making us languish in our cells for days before the
search even begins?  Why give someone with a weapon advance notice of a
search and then give them days to dispose of it?  Common sense dictates
that if they wanted to find a weapon, they would try to catch us by
surprise.  Finally, if the jail is short staffed, why is that so?  If one
or two guards don’t show up to work, apparently hundreds of men must get
punished as a result.  Jail is already cruel on many levels, particularly
the isolation and separation.  Locking us up in cages for 24 hours a day
without showers is beyond the pale.  Apparently, forcing us to stew in our
own filth for days on end counts as rehabilitation here in Canada.

To protest our treatment and assert our rights as human beings, we refused
to return our plastic trays after lunch yesterday.  After protracted
negotiations with “blue-shirts” (low ranking corrections officers) a “white
shirt” (high ranking official) was brought in to deal with us.  His
warning: if the guards did not receive our trays within 15 minutes he would
lock us up for another week and we would eat all meals out of bags.

After days of lockup, we decided to concede.  Our only recourse at this
point is to write a letter to the ombudsman, a strategy that has proven to
be ineffective at changing anything.  The end result:  our rights are
violated and there is nothing we can do to improve our conditions without
suffering severe consequences.