Zachary Armitage, 30, is one of two William Head Institution inmates who escaped from the prison in July. He has plead guilty to escape from lawful custody and awaits sentencing in Mountain Institution. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

Corrections Canada responds in wake of William Head escape

Recent prison escapee sent to lower security prison than originally recommended

In response to questions surrounding a July prison escape in Metchosin, Correctional Service Canada said offenders are assessed before a decision is made about what security level prison they are placed in.

Black Press Media reached out to Correctional Service Canada (CSC) with questions regarding Zachary Armitage and James Busch, two inmates who escaped Metchosin’s William Head Institution in July. One of the questions in particular asked why Armitage – who was deemed fit for a medium security institution according to details revealed in court – was recommended for William Head.

Armitage and Busch escaped from the Metchosin prison on July 7. They were present for the prison’s evening head count then discovered missing at 11 p.m.

During what was supposed to be a sentencing hearing for Armitage in September, court heard that the pair noted the low tide and made a “spontaneous decision” to escape. The inmates were found two days later.

READ ALSO: Judge ‘bewildered’ that escaped Metchosin inmate was in a minimum security prison

At Armitage’s sentencing hearing, court also heard that he has six escapes on his record. Twice as a youth, two more times in 2008 and once in 2016. Instead of sentencing, the judge requested additional information about the override recommendation that put Armitage at William Head.

While privacy laws prohibited CSC from sharing details about specific offenders, the federal agency shed some light on the process of deciding where inmates are placed. According to CSC, offenders are assessed and case-specific information such as documents from police, courts and family are reviewed. The offender’s security level is based on three factors: how they will adjust to the institution, the risk of escape and public safety.

When conducting a security level review, CSC said a security reclassification scale is used as one element to assess the most appropriate level of security for an inmate.

“The case management reviews also take into account case-specific information such as police records, psychological risk assessments and comments from Elders,” said Lucinda Fraser, spokesperson for CSC, in an e-mailed statement. “For Indigenous offenders, the case management’s overall assessment is made in the context of the offender’s social history.”

READ ALSO: Months after inmates escape Metchosin prison, community still wants answers

If, after all of the information is analyzed, the final security-level assessment is different than the security reclassification scale results, the case management team must provide a clear rationale for the recommendation, Fraser said.

As for security at the prison, Fraser said the perimiter is clearly defined but “not normally directly controlled” like with a perimiter fence, for example. Fraser said inmate activities are monitored through practices such as staff supervision of activity areas, routine security patrols and formal counts.

“The environment of a minimum-security institution is intended to develop an offender’s capacity to operate with minimal monitoring,” Fraser said. “This plays a very important role in the process of reintegrating offenders back into the community and helping them become law-abiding citizens.”

– With files from Nina Grossman

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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