The "Beaver Dam" Effect

hi everyone!

i recently celebrated six months since my release.  weird... it seems like much longer that i've been out.  in some ways it's hard to believe i was ever locked up - luckily i have this blog to remind me!  i also wrote a feature article for the spring/summer issue of Shameless, which is all about law, disorder and justice. 

the following piece was written by Terrance Naistus in march of 2011.  he asked me to post it here.  Terrance is currently serving a sentence in Edmonton Institution, which is a federal penitentiary.  this post was written about Saskatchewan Penitentiary after he did some time there.


mandy  :)






Saskatchewan Penitentiary has become overcrowded due to the fact prisoners aren't being properly processed within the institution(s).  The Security Rating Scale (SRS) and the Offender Management System (OMS) are highly questionable in terms of accuracy due to parole officers relying on 2nd and 3rd hand knowledge.  This is where the practice of Case Management Teams (CMT) only relying on 2nd and 3rd hand knowledge becomes problematic and precarious due to inaccuracy.  Log book information is taken at face value, and there are no cameras where prisoners/officers interact.


There's a dire need for this obtrusive measure (cameras), it would expose ethical/moral breaches, unruly acts/behaviours of prisoners and officers.  Those who breach or disregard the operations of the institution(s) will be held accountable for their actions, and this environment will promote order, discipline and dignity within the prison environment.  Also, the majority of CXIIs (officers with caseload duties) practice the cut and paste method when writing their routine case management reports, and these reports also move up the chain like log book reports that ultimately end up in the SRS/OMS programs.  The source of information that feeds these information gathering programs are in fact inaccurate and precarious, and there's record of CXII's not meeting with prisoners on a regular basis (in some cases, it's over 1 1/2 yrs).


Cameras in areas where prisoners and officers interact within the institution(s) doesn't constitute as a violation of privacy, as it's a monitoring tool, it will accurately assess the interactions between prisoners and officers.  However, this wouldn't apply to administrative offices, bathrooms, program areas, or staff eating areas, and this is within "Privacy Right" laws.  As Amnesty International states:  "When someone is watching; violence stops!"  This measure is a filtration system (program) that will help CMTs effectively assess prisoners accurately, and log book reports should be used as a secondary assessing tool to assist CMTs to achieve a highly accurate assessment.  This measure would greatly reduce the revolving door epidemic by accurately assessing prisoners through effective monitoring programs, and monitoring the interactions of prisoners has many benefits.


Log book reports are, at times, misleading, and this information is a front lines record of the acts/behaviours of prisoners.  This doesn't record underlying/motivating factors which result in reactionary behaviours, and falls short when documenting incidents in their entirety.  This information is then used by parole officers, warden(s), National Parole Board, Commissioner(s), and this information gets distorted as it moves up the chain from the front lines.  This is where the SRS/OMS are open to influence (much like the log books), and the program's vulnerability targets these tools for manipulation resulting in retarded outcomes in security ratings.


Orchestrated situations are the cause of many institutional incidents, and these incidents are inserted into the SRS/OMS programs, thus, the "Beaver Dam" Effect is constructed.  For example, if a group of authors were to write an article on a set topic, each author's article would be subject to their own perception even when their objective was to be objective.  Any article/report on any given topic is always going to be influenced by the writer's/user's opinion and judgment.  It's human nature to formulate our own opinions (individually or collectively) on any given facts, and with 2nd and 3rd hand knowledge the SRS/OMS are dangerously open and vulnerable to slander (in many cases, it's a defamation of character).


Even experts who try to describe human nature are themselves human beings subject to all the distortions and self-deceptions of which humans are capable.  In the end, no one has a "God's eye view" of the whole of human nature, and this is a fact that must always be considered by superior levels of the Correctional Service of Canada (RHQ/NHQ).


The "Beaver Dam" Effect is affecting the lives of prisoners and their efforts and progress of becoming law-abiding citizens.  The reality of the situation (Beaver Dam Effect) is intentional because prisoners who have completed their correctional plans remain in prison.  Also, medium security prisoners remain stagnate in the maximum security units in Saskatchewan Penitentiary causing the "Beaver Dam" Effect, and the cause and effect was well orchestrated through artful management and is agenda driven.  Prisoners aren't being moved into lower security institutions, and prisoners aren't being properly processed due to inaccurate and erroneous security rating scale/offender management system data.


An isolated environment has negative mental effects, and individuals become their environment because we (humans) are creatures of adaptation.  The dynamic factors of this (isolated) environment has a direct effect on the character and emotions of an individual, and many times, the underlying/motivating factors are overlooked because of stereotyping.  [A stereotype is an oversimplified, exaggerated, or unfavorable generalization about a category of people.  In stereotyping, an individual forms an image of a particular group and then applies that image to all members of the group (prisoners)].  All types of profiling fall under this category, as well, because the practice applies the same methods.


In reality, Saskatchewan Penitentiary has become overcrowded because of these facts, and the double bunking strategy is well orchestrated to meet an agenda to expand or receive more funds, it's all agenda driven.  Institutional officials are driving this hidden agenda at the expense of public safety, tax-payers, and the rehabilitational efforts and progress of prisoners.  Once again, this hidden agenda is an agenda to get more funds for renovations or expansion in the institution(s) by creating a need for double bunking.  This institution (unit 6) falls under the standard of minimum code due to dilapidation, and funds are allocated towards unwarranted renovations around the institution in order to bleed their accounts.  This practice is wasteful as it doesn't address priority renovation needs (plumbing, windows, and beds).  Prison expansion creates more jobs for UCCO (Union of Canadian Correctional Officers), and a violent environment ensures a pay increase in the form of danger pay.


Saskatchewan Penitentiary's unit 6 common rooms were designed to house 8 prisoners, and the number was raised to 16 prisoners.  However, now, officials want to raise that number to 32 prisoners per common room (with 2 prisoners for every individual cell).  Even cities have capacity laws that regulate public structures, and the federal government has an obligation to enact and enforce the legal capacity laws/policies to deal with matters of overcrowding due to public safety issues and concerns.  Warehousing prisoners in these conditions is cruel and unusual punishment. 


Saskatchewan Penitentiary officials/management are aware of all the dynamic factors that will hinder the progress of prisoners and their rehabilitation/mental health.  Many experts and public servants alike believe double bunking is counter-productive, and this whole situation has very much become a "human rights" violation.  The arbitrary and unilateral decision Vic Toews implemented in regards to double bunking is a big deal.  Closing minimum federal farm institutions just adds to this dilemma, and this dogmatic approach is premature and destructive.  It is not clear who gave the green light to double bunk Saskatchewan Penitentiary (warden, RHQ, or NHQ) but it goes against human, civil, and legal rights of prisoners.


One washer, dryer, and phone doesn't meet the basic need requirement of prisoners housed in unit 6 ranges, and the noise level is quite overwhelming; especially for those on the phone.  These conditions cause conflict, and we're (prisoners) being used to drive the institution's agenda by creating overcrowded conditions.  We've been provided with extra plastic chairs because there's no room for every prisoner at the 4 tables (each table seats 4 prisoners), and these conditions cause anxiety and mental grief.  We're also being filmed on camera to show the federal government that the institution needs an expansion.  The deputy warden (S.B.) is having consultations with the federal government in Ottawa.


This is also a mental health issue, and psychology will most likely follow suit and take this opportunity to play their (we need more funds) card.  Prisoners suffer mentally from trauma and stress due to an overcrowded environment, and psychologists remain sitting on their hands.  This will severely affect prisoners and their correctional plans because all the dynamic/underlying factors combined will deteriorate the mental state of prisoners housed in these types of destructive conditions, and management/officers misinterpret the mental health issues prisoners develop as bad behaviour.  Psychologists should be very concerned, however, we must keep in mind who they sit and drink coffee with.


In most cases, there's no therapy or counselling given, and the only practice always seems to be medicating prisoners into mental lethargy.  When prisoners are interviewed by the CSC's psychologists it's not to help the prisoner, but to assess and document the prisoner's reaction to their isolated environment for institutional management, rather than looking out for the best interest of the prisoner psychologically.  In reality, assessments and reports are actually, in fact, methods of scapegoating and propaganda.  Paradigms cause tunnel vision, which results in not accounting for all relevant facts to reach success.  Range dynamics add to the negative effects of prisoners in isolated environments, and all these underlying factors are ignored when prisoners are assessed.  Moreover, it's the behaviour of prisoners that's documented, and excluding the motive behind the action is standard practice because it takes the focus away from a system's problematic dynamic factors.


Without proper programming prisoners begin to develop an "I don't care" attitude, and the loss of focus/discipline mentality results from a lack of mental stimulation and isolation.  Prisoners don't choose to become institutionalized, it's the cause and effect of an isolated environment.  This is a path of a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is nurtured by the CSC, and prediction that results in behaviour that makes the prediction come true is at play here.


Prisoners become irritated, frustrated, and disruptive in these mentally traumatic conditions, and there's more potential for violence and disobedience.  Dynamic and underlying factors must be taken into account when prisoners become agitated and confrontational because these are motivating factors behind the reactionary behaviour.  Inconsistent range routines and mental/physical abuse from officers doesn't help prisoners living in this horrible environment, it's a desperate situation.  Log book reports are filled with actions and behaviours of prisoners, but motivating factors that cause prisoners to react to negative situations are ignored and never questioned.  The CSC is going against its own "Mission Statement" and 5 Core Rules, and they've violated laws, policies, and human/civil rights.


The CSC's monitoring/assessment programs (SRS/OMS) fail to recognize the dynamic/underlying/motivating factors resulting in highly inaccurate assessments, and cameras are essential in the front-lines because reports don't cover all facts (video footage is 99% fact).  It's no wonder why prisoners come out much worse than when they went to prison, and the CSC must take partial responsibility for the revolving door epidemic.  Victimization in society creates criminals who become prisoners in prisons, and the victimized become victimizers, it's an ugly vicious cycle (prisoners become revictimized in prisons).


This is also a health issue due to the fact with 16 prisoners (now, they want to exceed the capacity X2), we're packed in like sardines.  The conditions are a breeding ground for disease and sickness, it's filthy in the current cell conditions due to poor plumbing (high-risk increase).  There's recorded cases of the flesh eating disease from poor sanitary conditions, and there's nothing provided (bags) to contain garbage, it's all over the floor.  Storage space is inadequate for 2 prisoners in every cell, and all these aggravating factors are detrimental to the progressive correctional plans of prisoners at Saskatchewan Penitentiary's unit 6.


There's also a failure to accomodate employment for even 8 prisoners, and only 5 jobs could be provided on our range.  An economically deprived environment adds to the stress, which leads to criminal activity, and this is a huge factor of crime in general.  It's not fair for prisoners to pay into a welfare fund when they're on welfare themselves.  I'm not on welfare pay, but I get paid less than a prisoner on welfare.  I get a dollar a day for 10 days, and 6 dollars goes to the welfare fund, which leaves me with 4 dollars ($8.00 a month).  3 dollars goes to cable, and that's 6 dollars a month, which leaves me with 2 dollars, out of the 8 dollars a month I receive.


There's not enough employment opportunities or programming, and programs like library, school, chapel and cultural center are inconsistent.  Routines are irregular or just non existent, and these facilities (programs) are unavailable.  The public safety minister (Vic Toews) is also throwing around the idea of collecting 30% of all prisoner's pay, it's going to become more difficult for prisoners to purchase stationary, phone call minutes, canteen and legal services if Vic Toews proceeds with this plan.  This is why there's a dire need for a prisoner's union because prisoners are employed by the CSC's CORCAN Industries all across Canada.


In all, crime rates are down but the "Beaver Dam" Effect, which is reinforced by Bill C-10, is causing the prisons to overcrowd.  It's all part of the Conservative agenda to open Canada's back door to American companies to set up privatized prisons, and the federal government is looking at a partnership (more prisoners, more profits).


Prisoners in unit 6 (Sask-Pen/Max) are being exploited through subjection of cruel and unusual situations, it's all well orchestrated by Saskatchewan Penitentiary's elite in an attempt to influence the federal government to play into their agenda to receive more funding.  The Conservative Government's ideology is "If you build them (prisons), they (prisoners) will come!"  The "Beaver Dam" Effect goes against morals/ethics based on its cruel and unusual nature.  It also contradicts the integrity and etiquette of the CSC's Mission Statement and 5 Core Rules, and the CCRA., 1992 must be respected and upheld to the fullest to ensure that success is achieved. 




Terrance Naistus

Wed. March 9th, 2011