Violent prison guards: Inmate allegedly abused tells hell

Violent prison guards: allegedly abused inmate recounts story 'hell


An inmate is suing the Government of Canada and its correctional service for more than $1.5 million over years of physical assault and emotional abuse allegedly inflicted on him by prison guards.< /strong> 

After the June 2021 altercation, Frédéric Surprenant was transferred to a cell before he saw a nurse.

Invitation to commit suicide and to fight, threats, intimidation, assault, armed aggression and unjustified use of inflammatory aerosols: guards would have caused a real ordeal to live for Frédéric Surprenant, a 36-year-old native suffering in particular from a disease neuropsychiatric. 

In the summer of 2018, correctional officers are preparing to intervene with the inmate and are ready to use gas if necessary. They wear masks and protective suits.

“They do everything to blow me up. If this continues, they will kill me,” Frédéric Surprenant told us during a telephone interview.

The inmate spent half his life behind bars after being found guilty of around 60 charges. The vast majority of these offenses occurred in prison against fellow inmates or correctional officers.

Claiming to be the victim of numerous assaults committed by guards inside the walls, Surprenant filed a lawsuit for damages against the Canadian government and Correctional Service Canada (CSC) in February 2021 [see excerpts from the lawsuit] . These allegations have yet to be proven in Federal Court.

'It's urgent, he needs help'

His motion lifts the veil on disturbing behaviors noted at the Special Detention Unit (SDU), the “super-maximum” of the Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines Regional Reception Center, where Frédéric Surprenant was detained from 2017 to last January . 

This place would be one of the prisons where the conditions are the most difficult in Canada and even violate human rights, according to analyzes made by a criminologist and a group of lawyers who addressed the Senate [see other texts below]. 

Frédéric Surprenant's mother, Sandra Frey, went to the Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines penitentiary last week where her son was allegedly beaten and humiliated by correctional officers.

“A few days ago, Fred said he loved us while sobbing on the phone; it's urgent, he needs help”, laments his mother, Sandra Frey, helpless and distressed. 

Donnacona also targeted 

< p> The abuse alleged by Surprenant would not have occurred only in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines. He was allegedly sexually assaulted by fellow inmates at Donnacona Institution in 2005, without being rescued, the lawsuit reads. 

Declared a dangerous offender in November 2017, Surprenant is serving an indeterminate prison sentence. He left the “super-maximum” on January 31 to join the Port-Cartier establishment, where he has been since.

In response to our questions, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) states that it takes the well-being of the offenders in its care very seriously. By email, the spokesperson indicates that the officers are trained to intervene peacefully by using verbal intervention. They only use tactical intervention as a last resort, she argues. As this case is before the courts, the CSC could not comment further.   

Who is Frédéric Surprenant 

  • He has been convicted since 2004 of some 60 criminal charges, the majority of which relate to events that occurred in prison. He was notably found guilty of sequestering fellow prisoners as well as threatening, hitting and intimidating correctional officers. 
  • His heaviest sentence dates back to 2013, when he was sentenced to four years in prison for taking a fellow prisoner hostage at the tip of a homemade pickaxe. After several violent incidents in prison, he was declared a dangerous offender in 2017.
  • Since the beginning of his incarceration, he has been accused of violent reactions, of having spat and thrown excrement at direction of the agents in addition to having repeatedly become mentally disorganized.   

Excerpts from the lawsuit 

“ He was kicked in the head and even received an invitation to fight from employees.” 

He “suffered inhuman conditions of detention […], he was deprived of medication, deprived of electricity in the cell, deprived of food”.  

He has “permanent psychological and physical scars from all the abuse he suffered”. < /p>

He has been “kept secluded for a minimum of 20 hours a day for more than 4 years, without contact

“CSC continues to use solitary confinement measures against the applicant, despite the abolition of federal solitary confinement since 2019.” 

Almost torture, says an expert 

Detainee Frédéric Surprenant would have been locked up for more than eight consecutive months in a preventive solitary confinement cell, a duration which could correspond to torture, according to a criminologist who refers to the criteria established by the United Nations (UN). 

In the wake of his $1.5 million lawsuit, Frédéric Surprenant commissioned criminologist Philippe Bensimon to draw up an expert report on his conditions of detention at the Special Detention Unit (USD) in Sainte-Anne-des- Plains.   

Frédéric Surprenant would have spent 249 consecutive days in solitary confinement, more than 20 hours a day, in a 75 square foot concrete cell with no outside light, can we read in the criminologist's report produced in May 2021. The expert had to evaluate, supervise and supervise more than 1000 criminal cases in the past.  

The criminologist recalls that the UN describes as “torture” any isolation in a detention center that exceeds 15 consecutive days.  

According to Mr. Bensimon, the repercussions for the mental health of a person placed in such conditions can be fatal. Frédéric Surprenant would have tried to take his own life on several occasions, in the small cell closed by a heavy door where he was. 

First in Canada  

Frédéric Surprenant when he was 7 years old, the age at which he was diagnosed with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.

The criminologist points out that the UN has also established that “the use of solitary confinement should be prohibited for prisoners suffering from a mental incapacity”. However, Surprenant has suffered in particular from the neuropsychiatric illness Gilles de la Tourette since the age of seven, which was known to the prison establishment. 

“To my knowledge, this case is truly a first in Canada, when we know that the deterioration of his behavior was built inside the walls, “says the criminologist in his report. 

The expert is not the only one to have looked into the case of Surprenant. Even before the filing of the civil lawsuit, numerous complaints had been filed with the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada (OCI), the federal inmate ombudsman. 

In a report that we have been able to consult, the BEC notes several anomalies in the way it intervenes with Surprenant. He mentions excessive use of force, power cuts, food and medication cuts for a few days, in addition to physical and verbal violence.  

An agent would have suggested to Surprising to hang himself, can we read. 

BEC director and legal adviser Jean-Frédéric Boulais has expressed concern over Surprenant's detention, calling it “an abject and inhumane situation”. 

“I have increasingly the firm conviction that USD participants have a vested interest in ensuring that the measures that have been in place for years are not called into question,” he wrote in this investigative report. 

The worst prison in Canada

The “inhuman and degrading” conditions of detention that the detainees at the “super-maximum” of Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines would experience were denounced in a brief by a group of lawyers in the Senate, who looked into this case. . 

In its report produced in 2019, the firm Simao Lacroix describes the Special Handling Unit (SDU) as the most restrictive in Canada. The lawyers allege deprivation of human contact, gestures of a sexual nature during searches, insults as well as long periods without electricity. 

This brief was intended to alert the Senate Committee on Human Rights to the conditions of detention of the prisoners of this “super-maximum”, where Frédéric Surprenant was also detained.  

The lawyers have collected testimonies from prisoners who claim to have had their cells cut off for up to three days because they had conflicts with guards. People of aboriginal descent say they were routinely called “savages” and “dirty Indians”. 

Urinating in the sink

Others said they “were forced to urinate in the sink and defecate in a plastic bag” because officers allegedly refused to take action to unclog their toilets. 

“Some prisoners report being victims of sexual acts during searches, including having their genitals touched and having guards rubbing their bodies against them,” reads the same report. 

These testimonies are all the more worrying since, in the early 2000s, the Office of the Correctional Investigator questioned the very existence of this establishment. It then raised issues concerning this “super-maximum” and the detrimental effects of the conditions of detention on the people who are incarcerated there, recall the authors. 

The Senate committee studied this brief, which he quoted in a June 2021 report. The latter expresses “considerable concern about the conditions of detention of prisoners, especially in segregation units,” said Senator Salma Ataullahjan, chair of this committee, by email. /p> Got a scoop for us?

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