NS Jail Attack: Debate Over Whether Sentences Linked To 2019 Beating Will Curb Violence – Halifax | The Canadian News

After a judge handed down the first sentences for a brutal assault on the Halifax jail this week, opinions differ on whether they will deter the growing number of beatings at the facility.

On Tuesday, Omar McIntosh, who kept a door closed on December 2, 2019, while inmates beat and stabbed Stephen Anderson, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison. He was the first of 12 inmates at the central Nova Scotia Correctional Center convicted of aggravated assault upon learning that he was being taken to a federal penitentiary.

A day later, Colin Ladelpha, who was in the cell when the attack unfolded, received a six-year sentence from Judge Jamie Campbell.

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Both sentences fell within the Crown’s stated goal of five to eight years in prison for the men convicted of the assault. However, there is little consensus on whether pressure from prosecutors Scott Morrison and Rick Woodburn for the courts to send out a “whistle-blower” message will moderate the violence at the Halifax jail.

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Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union Chairman Jason MacLean said in a recent interview that his two decades of work in provincial jails suggests yes.

“When people know that it is going to take a long time to behave like this, they will be less likely to do so,” he said. MacLean, whose union represents the officers, said he is “somewhat satisfied” with the first two prison sentences. Measures are needed to lessen a pattern of violence witnessed by prison officials, the union leader added.

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However, Canadian prison researcher Ivan Zinger suggests that minimizing attacks on prisons has more to do with reducing the number of people detained and reforming the prison system away from its militarized model.

Research suggests that federal mandatory minimum sentences introduced by the former Harper administration have not resulted in less violence, Zinger said in a recent interview.

The punitive approach can deter law-abiding citizens from committing crimes like drinking and driving, the correctional investigator said. “But generally speaking, when it comes to targeting people with criminal attitudes, peers and lifestyles, the punitive approach (sentencing) just doesn’t work.”

The two-year-old attack on Anderson, who was beaten, kicked and stabbed to the point that he had to be hospitalized with fatal injuries, resulted in 15 charges and two group trials this fall. So far, 12 of the inmates involved have been convicted of aggravated assault. An inmate number 13 has been convicted of obstruction.

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Additionally, Brian James Marriott, an inmate who the Crown allegedly unleashed the violence, has yet to formally plead guilty, but prosecutors say they will take the rare step of trying to be deemed a dangerous criminal. The 15th inmate involved in the case, Sophon Sek, has had his trial delayed due to a serious illness.

Video evidence shown during the two group trials showed grim choreography by prisoners. The court was shown images of 11 inmates illegally gathered inside a cell prior to the attack, and other video evidence showed seven inmates running into Anderson’s cell. Two inmates held the cell door closed and multiple lines of inmates blocked the officers’ efforts to come to the rescue.

During sentencing earlier this month, Capt. Andrew Miller, the facility’s chief risk assessment officer, testified that violence at the jail had steadily increased. Miller told the court that there were three to five assaults a week between inmates or prisoners and that the frequency of those attacks increased “significantly and exponentially in the last 10 years, in my experience.”

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Sheila Wildeman, a law professor at Dalhousie University and co-president of the East Coast Prison Justice Society, said that when she visited Halifax jail last year, she heard from inmates that tensions rose in 2019 amid more frequent closings, where the inmates are locked up. their cells for hours or days.

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She said this was combined with a constant lack of programs to help with diagnoses of mental health, physical disabilities and addiction problems for the approximately 374 inmates in the province’s prisons.

“Intensifying the punitive, isolating and imprisoning response to violence is only going to produce more violence. Prisons are places of viral transmission of violent behavior, “he said in a recent interview.

In addition, he noted that some people involved in prison violence have little history of crime or violent behavior, adding that they may be involved in attacks while awaiting trial or serving short provincial sentences.

“That is a great tragedy and the first line of defense is to invest in alternatives to incarceration,” he said.

Ladelpha, for example, had no history of violence and was taking prescription drugs to treat schizophrenia at the time of the assault. “He is a person with mental health problems who made the very bad decision to get involved in a coordinated act of violence,” Campbell said in his decision.

Campbell noted that while deterrence is a factor in sentencing, “the rhetoric of deterrence may slip away on its own.”

He said he would analyze each of the next 11 sentences on their own merits and turn them in by July 2022.

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This Canadian Press report was first published on December 23, 2021.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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