Two inmates at Mission and Matsqui institutions filed a notice of civil claim Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court, saying the lack of adequate programming has violated their charter rights, including their being considered for lower-security prisons and their chances for early parole.
The claim was filed against Correctional Service Canada (CSC) by Wesley Devries, currently incarcerated at Mission Medium Institution, and Yong Long Ye, in Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford.
Devries is serving a 34-month sentence, which began in September 2013, for 13 charges of fraud and theft involving women he was dating.
Ye was sentenced in December 2008 to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to three charges – conspiracy to produce and export methamphetamine, conspiracy to import and traffic cocaine, and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime.
Their civil claim states that inmates’ participation in programs is considered when assessing their security classification, which, when lowered, can result in their being transferred to a lower-security prison.
Programming is also taken into account when assessing whether a prisoner is eligible for early parole, the claim states.
The types of rehabilitation programs available vary from prison to prison but can address issues such as substance abuse, sexual abuse and violence prevention.
The documents state that no resources were available for Devries for counselling or psychiatric care related to his underlying health conditions.
He is on a wait list for other programs and has been unable to transfer to a lower-security institution.
Devries has just seven months left before his statutory release.
“(He) will have spent his entire custodial sentence without any programming being made available to him and no assistance in helping him cascade to a minimum-security institution,” the civil claim states.
The documents state that Ye, too, has been eager to take programs – specifically, those to help him further understand the impact of violence – but, to date, has been denied access.
Ye applied for early parole but was denied in November 2012, with the parole board concluding that there were grounds to believe that Ye, if released, would be “likely to commit an offence involving violence.”
The civil claim seeks an order requiring SCS to provide “reasonable access to all inmates with respect to programming.”
None of the allegations has been proved in court, and the CSC has not yet filed a response.
Lawyer Chris Terepocki said this litigation is unique because it is funded by the inmates themselves.
Jason McGown, head of the inmates committee at Mission Institution, started the process. He contacted other inmate committees and several indicated their support.
“It is incredibly frustrating for those of us that recognize that we do need help and want to participate in programs, yet, for whatever reason, some do not qualify and are basically stuck until they reach their statutory release date,” he said.
John Mckenzie, a member of the Matsqui inmate committee, said programming plays a crucial role in rehabilitating prisoners.
“To deny inmates this not only contravenes their legislated obligation, it denies us our ability to cascade to less restrictive conditions,” he said.
The inmate committees have retained Abbotsford-based law firm Grace, Snowdon and Terepocki, which already represents inmates at Kent Institution in a class-action lawsuit related to a 2010 lockdown.