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The territorial government’s justice department won’t say if security procedures have changed at the NWT’s largest jail after an inmate brutally beat a corrections officer in an unprovoked attack caught on camera.
An officer at Yellowknife’s North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) was assaulted by Jordan Charlie, 19, in May.
The male corrections officer was escorting the inmate back to his cell following a video court appearance when Charlie, unrestrained and un-handcuffed, suddenly attacked him.
Security camera footage of the violent incident, obtained by NNSL Media through NWT territorial court, shows the NSCC employee being punched in the head dozens of times during the assault. He was kicked after falling to the floor.
The victim of the assault, contacted by the Crown upon the request of an NWT territorial court officials, consented to the footage being released to NNSL Media.
The attack occurred almost immediately after the lone corrections officer began escorting Charlie down a jail hallway. It ended a half-a-minute later when a staff member, one of several who rushed to intervene, pepper sprayed Charlie.
At the time of the incident, Charlie was in remand custody at NSCC after stabbing a man in the neck in downtown Yellowknife two months earlier. Charlie was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for that assault plus the attack on the jail guard.
He had been convicted of five assaults over a two-year span when he attacked the NSCC officer. Charlie, diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and other cognitive challenges, has been suicidal in the past.
He had already been segregated from the jail’s general population due to security concerns, defence lawyer Baljindar Rattan told NNSL Media in September following a sentencing hearing for the 19-year-old. Rattan said Charlie was immediately separated from other inmates after being brought to the jail in late March.
At a sentencing hearing for Charlie, she suggested there should have been two guards escorting Charlie that day.
In an email to NNSL Media, justice department spokesperson Sue Glowach said the number of officers required to escort an inmate varies depending on an inmate’s security rating.
NSCC, operated by the Corrections Service, houses inmates with minimum to maximum security ratings.
“The number of officers required to escort maximum security inmates differs from lower security escorts. As a matter of security, we do not release these numbers publicly,” stated Glowach, adding the publication of those details could leave jail employees vulnerable.
Charlie’s security rating at the time of the assault is not known. The department also doesn’t release the security ratings of individual inmates.
According to Glowach, “reviews and/or investigations” are opened after serious incidents occur at Corrections Service-run facilities to determine if procedures and policies were followed, and to examine whether or not procedural changes are needed.
The department is staying mum on whether or not any security shortcomings were identified, and if any policy changes were implemented, following the May assault, which sent the corrections officer to hospital with minor injuries.
“We will not be commenting on specifics regarding movements and security within the facility,” stated Glowach. “There is a policy in place to ensure staff members and inmates are safe during the movement of inmates,” she wrote.
Asked when, if ever, an inmate may be handcuffed or restrained when being moved at the facility, the department did not provide a direct answer, but said “institutional security ratings determine the methods used for both internal and external inmate movement.”
Past security concerns at jail
Security shortcomings at NSCC have been identified in the past.
A highly critical 2015 report from Auditor General of Canada found serious deficiencies in inmate and facility management at NSCC. The report identified “significant gaps in the staffing approach that affect the operations of each facility, including the security and safety of inmates and staff, and inmates’ access to services.” In October 2017, NSCC staff spoke out to CBC North about staffing and safety concerns.
Security procedures at the facility again fell under scrutiny earlier this year, when former NSCC inmate Kelly Canadian launched a $1.2 million lawsuit against the GNWT alleging he was sexually assaulted dozens of times by an employee at the jail. Two staff members were fired in the wake of the allegations.