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Quelling the riot

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After the sentencing of this 17-year-old last Friday, I keep coming back to this recent story about the plight of correctional officers who work at the MYC.

And this one as well.

And hey, if you have the time to spare, read this one too.

While officially, CO's and those who manage them will say that the sun continues to shine on youth corrections, and that risks to officer safety while working have been minimized to every possible extent, there's been too many examples recently showing that CO's have their backs against the wall (literally) when it comes to dealing with inmates in the youth corrections system.I hold up some of the details from last Friday's sentencing of the 17-year-old youth as an example. Let's not forget this was the kid given a probationary sentence for court-order breaches and then denied bail on new charges by the same judge right afterwards.I'll begin with Crown attorney Lisa Carson's submissions at the bail hearing on the fresh charges:The youth has a "demonstrated track-record of violence," she said, adding the boy was not a candidate for release on bail "by any stretch of the imagination."Carson said that in the afternoon of Jun. 24, the boy and a co-accused allegedly:Began covering the windows of their rooms with paper so that the CO's couldn't see in and began yelling and banging on their doors.Carson said the youths had both somehow smashed cafeteria trays and used the wired supports inside to make "shanks" with which to stab the guards. Essentially, they were 4" pieces of metal wire wrapped in cloth at one end so their paws don't get cut. They have been sharpened, according to police reports.The CERU team (high-risk emergency response team) are dispatched and remove the weapons from the two.They're taken to Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie and put under guard.But that's not all. Not by a long shot.One of the two allegedy was heard saying: "I'm gonna shank the (CERU) team when they get here," to which the other responded: "I've got two shanks for them."After the CERU team (essentially a riot and containment squad) safely removed the 17-year-old from his cell at about 2:30 in the morning, he's alleged to have told an officer, "Next time I'll take a hostage."There are four staff members who allegedly witnessed the event, Carson said. Many of their police statements corroborate each others, but one of them creates a shocking picture of what life's really like and who really seems to call the shots at the MYC.Here's a snippet of the official transcript from the court proceedings, names removed because I'm in a good mood ;)

Carson: Basically the third (CO) heard the teen say to the other "I've got two shanks in my room for when the tem comes over." She asks (the two) whether any of them have weapons to which (one) denied it and (the other) said 'yes.'(one) turned over the remnants of the cafeteria tray and stated 'I have three shanks in my room.' He turned over two of the three shanks to this individual and almost turned over the third when they were interrupted and changed his mind and decided to keep the third shank.And, I'm just going to pause at this moment because I read this paragraph and then I turned to the statements because I wanted to see what that was all about — it sounds like (he's) calling the shots here in custody. He's asked by the female worker to turn over the weapons, and it's sort of like he's making a deal with her, 'okay, sure I'll give them to you. He's passing them under the door to her. And then when the male staff member comes along, he says — and I actually highlighted it in the statement — he says to the two workers at this point, 'never mind, the deal's off,' — I was prepared to give it to her, but I'm not prepared to give it to you.
It's concerning that he's got these weapons, he's wheeling and dealing as to whether he complies with the correctional authorities or not. In any event, two of the three weapons were turned over to this female.The police take a statement from a fourth individual who she says she heard (him) say to the co-accused, 'let's cause a disturbance to get this place on lockdown.' He follows it up with a comment to (the other), 'when you go out to take a shower, jump the staff then, and make a mess of the bathroom when you go.' And that's the information provided by the fourth staff member basically indicating that (he) was encouraging the other resident to cause a disturbance and potentially attack the staff at the youth centre.The youth centre staff contact police and indicate they'd like to proceed with charges against these two individuals...Just in terms of the statement of the female staff who the accused was apparently making a deal with to turn over the weapons, what he says is — he's in the process of handing the weapons to her, he hears the male's voice and he says 'the deal's off, I'm only dealing with you (CO), not you, (other CO). And then he pulls the weapon back into his bedroom and holds on to it. He's not at that point prepared to turn it over...I can tell you that it's significant, the impact on the individuals at the youth centre, because I read with some interest one of the female correctional staff's comments, when police asked her: 'were you threatened by (the accused?), and her response was, 'not directly, no — having those weapons in there was not a good feeling.' So while she indicated she wasn't directly threatened by these individuals, having to deal with securing significantly violent weapons is certainly a concern to her.
Wheeling and dealing. A kid with a history of violence and who makes weapons and threatens to take hostages "next time." Felling insecure because you don't know which kid has the next "shank" which may be used to threaten you.Youth corrections officers are people who are "armed" only with handcuffs and small -very small- flashlights. They're inside a locked facility with some of our province's most dangerous people - made even more dangerous perhaps by the fact they they're kids with sometimes little sense of consequence or remorse.To be fair, what Carson said in court are only allegations that have not been proven yet. Kathy Bueti, the lawyer for the teen, says there are serious issues with how police conducted the investigation, and which correctional guard heard what and when. (Aside: If you're a young offender accused of a crime, hire Bueti. Her force of argument in court is nothing short of amazing.)But hearing all this simply confirmed my own suspicions that things on the inside are kind of a Gangsta's paradise and that Corrections — Corrections — officers meant to help kids turn their lives around, aren't treated with the 'kid gloves' by that they should be, given the rotten apples they deal with. They do the job few people could, or would, want to do.CO's call me from time to time to tell me of the latest incident. They do so at great risk to their own livelihood, as they're forbidden to talk with the media without authorization, they've told me.Here's hoping they get a new contract with the province hammered out soon. They've been without one for a while.

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