Renovations at Burnside jail (Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility) in Canada have sparked wide- spread anger among inmates.
Inmates were promised programs and new amenities—promises that they said were unfulfilled. In- stead, they spent most of their day in lockdown with poor living conditions, including toilets that didn’t flush, according to the Halifax Examiner.
Part of the renovation was the installation of body scanners, which prison officials hope will reduce contraband by 90 percent. The body scanners provide X-ray images, which not all correctional officers know how to interpret, according to the article.
“You have X-ray technicians and doctors that are going through this stuff in hospitals. Not just anybody can read an X-ray,” said Jason MacLean, correctional officer and president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. “Not everybody knows the body’s anatomy, and not everybody knows something that is contraband.”
Prisoners do have the right to refuse the scanners, but those who exercise that right are subjected to segregation and humiliation, according to the article.
Inmates who refused were put in a dry cell, which contained no water and no toilet, inmates told the Halifax Examiner. They were then strip searched, and correctional officers watched as they defecated two or three times. A camera stays trained on the room at all times.
Even after ensuring that inmates had no contraband, they were still not allowed to immediately return to the range but placed in segregation for six days. They were told they would be returned to the range once they agreed to take the body scan. The inmates were concerned about the safety of the scans, and the correctional officers—who are not required to use the scanners—failed to provide more information about potential risks, ac- cording to the article.
“Putting inmates in segregation for refusing body scans runs contrary to the law in my opinion,” said Asaf Rashid, a Canadian lawyer who specializes in prison law. “We need to keep in mind how extremely depriving and dehumanizing the practice of administrative segregation is.”
Meanwhile, inmates are subjected to lockdown-type conditions due to alleged staff shortages, according to the article.
When inmates were moved to this facility, their clothes were taken and not returned. Some inmates had to wear the same clothes for days. They weren’t allowed to shower, and most cells didn’t have running water.
Inmates are also angry about visitation policies, which differ from all other Canadian correctional facility policies. Inmates are only allowed immediate family members and two friends on their visiting list.
The prisoners at Burnside told reporters they worry that if these conditions continue, it will lead to more serious problems.
“We have 40 guys living together in the same room, without any physical equipment, no physical outlets. It’s very hard, and it’s gonna lead to violence,” one inmate explained.