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Standup Counts – Farrish.txt

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August 2, 2011
By Craig Farrish

Convicted cop killer Peter Collins was recently awarded $9500 by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Collins alleged that the Correctional Service of Canada had discriminated against his disability when they up held their policy of requiring him to stand up once a day for a “stand to count”. CHRT member Hadjls concurred with Collins’ claim. Collins “suffers” from a sore back.The obvious thoughts, comments and utterances of disgust have all been said. Peter Collins is presently serving a life sentence for the senseless murder of Ottawa Police Constable David Ultman in 1983. The general public when faced with the issues and subsequent decision which makes it now pliable for Inmates to not have to stand for a stand up count may not understand the need for such a count. That being said, other law enforcement personnel may also not understand the need for such a count. Any facility which has the capacity to hold prisoners, whether 1 or 1000 should have a policy for ensuring proper counts of their inmates.Counts. Every prison has prisoners. The primary goal of any prison is to ensure their prisoners are either behind the perimeter, or are in custody with officers in the community, where they are supposed to be. This is a necessity when the offenders are at court, medical appointments etc…Each prison will have an area that has a board, or some other device which holds every prisoners name, their cell or work location and with this a corresponding total of inmates for their site. From this area each living unit (range, tier) and work location will also have a similar method of tracking who is in their area, either living or working. At designated times of the day officers in these areas will conduct a “count” of the inmates. This count is sent to the main office then verify the respective counts from each area, cross reference this with their master count, and then add all areas who submitted a count. The Officers assigned to this area, normally a manager will either certify the institutions count, or order another count. Often times the institution will reflect a count that is under or short of the required number of prisoners, and also at times a count that is higher. These errors are common. It could be as simple as poor arithmetic or it could be an indicator that something is wrong. Counts have 3 purposes. 1: they ensure everyone is present that is supposed to be present. This gives re assurance that there has not been an escape. 2: that all prisoners that have been counted are alive. The suicide rate in Federal and Provincial facilities is much higher that the National rate of Canadians not incarcerated. Counts often times are the means by which Officers discover inmates who have killed themselves, normally in their cells. Also though, these counts can and do act as the process to discover inmates who have been murdered. Also within this category is the fact that inmates also die of natural causes while in custody. The goal of this count requirement is ideally to discover an inmate in physical distress and take immediate medical steps to preserve life. And 3: counts are utilized to assess the general well being of inmates. Correctional Officers are not medics, nurses or health practitioners. They are however; responsible to assess that overall well being of any inmates working or residing in their areas. Keep in mind they may be doing this task for 15-100+ inmates in their respective area. The purpose of this count component is to detect physical and mental issues with inmates that may result in serious harm or death. Example, during a count an Officer may observe a cut on an inmates head, which could be evidence of an earlier assault or work place accident. Inmates may also be hunched over in pain, evidence of an assault or that the inmate is in medical distress. Another issue may be the inmate is crying or displaying other behaviours consistent with experiencing mental distress. Another important factor the officer is checking for is any signs of impairment. Is the inmate drunk or high? Both important pieces of information, both from and intelligence point of view as well as for security operations.Whatever the case, the officer has a very short time frame to look into each cell, assess that the inmate is present, the inmate is breathing and that the inmate appears to be in overall good condition. How does someone do this consistently and in a manner which respects the timeframes existent so as to not interfere with the necessarily tight schedules of a prison?This is where stand up counts come into play. Most prisons will have 1 stand up count a day. By having the inmates stand for count the Officer is able to discern the 3 criteria noted above quickly and easily as the inmate is up right. Of importance, this count is done with the inmate fully clothed. Is this fool proof in discerning the inmates well being? No. However, it provides a much greater opportunity for the officer to check the inmate.Often times during the stand up count the inmates will sit in their bed, will be sitting on a chair, or will simply wave from their bed or somewhere else, but not in a standing position. There are times when this is deemed appropriate, or good enough by the officer in lieu of the inmate standing. This is not encouraged or supported by many as the Officer cannot assess as accurately as they could if the inmate was standing. Also, by allowing this the inmates grow accustomed to not having to stand up for the count.Here is a scenario. Officer Ben is conducting the 1730 stand up count. Inmate Charlie is sitting up right in his bed reading. The inmate’s legs are covered by a blanket. Inmate Charlie waves at Officer Ben. Officer Ben continues to the next cell and will later articulate the inmate said hello, waved and seemed in good condition. Officer Ben had 45 more inmates to count in his assigned work area. The next Institutional count was at 2200, it was not a stand up count. Officer Ben observed Inmate Charlie slouched over on his bed and is unresponsive. Officer Ben requests assistance, the cell is opened. The officers begin providing CPR. Inmate Charlie is pronounced dead a short time later. He had cut through both of his Achilles tendons and had “bled out”. No one had known the inmate was suicidal. This behaviour could have occurred after the stand up count, or between other counts. The issue would become that the institutional policy would have allowed for a proper assessment of the inmate, if he had been made to stand. Indeed, the inmate still could have killed himself, but the issue for the officer involved and the organization is that it could have possibly been detected via the stand up count.Of course there are exceptions and subsequent exemptions to inmates having to stand for counts. With an aging population in Canadian Prisons, or prisons where some inmates have severe medical issues which will not allow them to stand, there will be provisions for these cases. Each facility, whether: municipal, provincial or Federal should create a systematic process for assessment. In Collins’ case he applied for an exception and was assessed by an Institutional nurse and a Doctor, both deciding that despite his back pain Collins would be able to stand for a few seconds a day. The institution Collins is residing at requires 1 stand up count a day. Officers conducting the stand up count ordered him to stand. When he refused to stand he was issued an institutional charge form. Collins grieved this, and eventually challenged the decision to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Collins had been assessed by a Doctor who had stated that despite his back pain he was able to stand for a “few seconds” a day for the purpose of this count. The CHRT tribunal disagreed and awarded Collins a $9500 for “pain and suffering”. The ruling member of the tribunal: Hadjis also mentioned the anxiety Collins suffered from having to face institutional charges.As presented above, the purpose of stand up counts is not to degrade inmates, even those with apparent ailments that they allege causes them pain to do so. These counts are conducted to ensure not only the inmate is alive, but that they are in the same general health they were the day before they were subjected to a stand up count.Constable Ultman was a married father of two. <<< bio box >>>Craig Farrish & K9 Charlie, Millhaven Canine Division – Craig.Farrish@CSC-SCC.GC.CA