Monday, April 27, 2020

Prison justice organizers respond to the BC Corrections hit-and-run during the #FreeThemAll Caravan outside Fraser Regional Correctional Centre


Marcia Marchenski, Director - Investigation & Standards Office

Stephanie Macpherson, Provincial Director - Adult Custody Division

Dean Purdy, Vice President - BCGEU Component 1


27 April 2020 (Vancouver / Coast Salish Territories) - On Sunday, April 26, a coalition of prison abolitionists in Metro Vancouver participated in the second #FreeThemAll Caravan, as part of networked events across so-called Canada. The April 26 caravan involved 2 stops in unceded Kwantlen and Katzie territory, so-called Maple Ridge, BC. The first stop was the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre (“FRCC”), followed by the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women. Each stop was scheduled to last approximately 45 minutes, for a total caravan length of approximately 2 hours. 

These caravans aim to bring attention to the conditions of prisons in light of COVID-19 outbreaks and the need to rapidly de-carcerate. This gathering was billed as a noise demo, recognizing that showing up and making noise is one of the very few ways that people can show incarcerated communities that they are not forgotten.

Our caravan planned to pull into the parking lot of FRCC, but upon arrival found the gate closed and 2 correctional officers (“COs”) stationed at the gate, one recording our group. We proceeded to initiate the noise demonstration outside the gate; including: banging pots, blowing whistles, honking horns and using other noise-making devices. Our caravan members had brought banners and signs to express our political views. 

Shortly after arriving at FRCC, we noticed 2 cars had arrived and the drivers were in civilian/healthcare dress. One of our members approached them, and after a short conversation learned they were healthcare staff and our demo coincided with shift change. As our efforts, in part, aim to call attention to healthcare conditions inside, we moved out of the way and they were able to enter the gate. A short while after that, two more cars arrived, these driven by two COs, dressed in the BC Corrections uniforms. Neither the drivers, nor the two COs at the gate attempted to liaise or communicate with our group. Instead, the driver of the car with license plate CH7 37W recklessly drove into the demonstration, hitting one of our members with their car, knocking them over and into a ditch.  Luckily the person who was hit by this CO’s car did not sustain any serious injuries. 

Following this incident this CO kept driving, and neither he nor other BC Corrections personnel attempted to communicate with demonstrators. Two members of the caravan approached CO Lotts, who was stationed at the front gate, to inform him of the incident. His response to the concerns that were brought forward was “I can’t help you.” 

The behaviour of BC Corrections staff was reprehensible and irresponsible. While members of the #FreeThemAll Caravan gathered in a legal protest to call attention to the grave potential for COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional institutions, and to call for the abolition of prisons as a public health intervention, they were met with dangerous and violent behaviour by these employees of the provincial government.  If Corrections officers are willing to recklessly endanger lives in this way outside of prisons, in full view of multiple witnesses, what does that say about the way they might behave inside of prisons when nobody is watching?

- BC Investigation & Standards Office & BCGEU must jointly investigate the incident and address the reckless behaviour of their employees, who are members of BCGEU Component 1 (Corrections & Sheriff Services) 
- BC Corrections must provide us with a copy of the video that their officers took of this incident and the demonstration during which it happened.
- BC Corrections must facilitate the urgent release of prisoners who are still incarcerated in these death traps. 

Sent on behalf of #FreeThemAll caravan attendees, 
Vancouver Prison Justice Day Committee

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