Inmate dies after riot at Sask. Penitentiary
Correctional Service Canada has confirmed that an inmate has died after a riot at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert.
Jason Leonard Bird, 43, was found unresponsive in the medium-security unit around 7:15 Wednesday night and later died in hospital.
Bird’s sister Holly Lafond provided a statement to CTV News saying the family is facing many unanswered questions. Lafond said Bird was a traditional man and talented artist, especially at traditional beadwork. She described him as intelligent, strong and loyal to his family including his four children.
“Jason was the kind of man that was fearless. He would have protected us if we needed him to, no questions asked. He was my big brother. He was a proud man that always held his head up high. I loved that about him,” Lafond wrote. “The loss of our brother Jason will forever be felt, and he will be forever missed.”
The medium-security unit was locked down as a result of the riot. Officials say staff was securing the area when they found three inmates, including Bird, with what appeared to be injuries from assaults by other inmates. The three were taken to hospital in serious condition and one inmate was released and sent back to the prison Wednesday night.
CSC says officers were forced to discharge their firearms to control the riot and an additional six inmates were injured as a result. Five of those inmates were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and the sixth was treated on site.
James Bloomfield, Prairie Region President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told CTV News that Wednesday’s events were handled properly by correctional staff. According to Bloomfield, 200 inmates were involved in the riot.
“It started up with a simple refusal to lock up and started very quickly from there barricading and smashing windows,” he said.
“The inmates broke all of the beds off the walls, smashed all the windows, all the lights, and ripped all the heating drapes off the walls and piled it all up in areas we would enter as staff,” Bloomfieldsaid. “When they finally went through the barricading and entered the area, they saw there were inmates down.”
The most damage occurred in two ranges of the medium-security unit, which are now uninhabitable. Bloomfield said this has put pressure on the other units of the facility.
Barry Stolar with the Union of Solicitor General Employees said the incident forced the union to deploy additional resources. The USGE represents administrative, maintenance, kitchen and other support staff inthe Saskatchewan Penitentiary.
“Our maintenance staff was tasked with working throughout the night to keep the institution up and running,” Stolar said.
A lockdown was put into effect in the medium-security unit around 1 p.m. Wednesday and two hours later a second lockdown was implemented in maximum security as a precaution. The prison is still in lockdown mode and visits to the facility are suspended. Officials say normal operations will resume when it is safe.
CSC says it will conduct a full review into the cause of the riot and the response. RCMP are investigating Bird’s death and says no arrests have been made.
Lafond wrote on Facebook that the family will fight for justice for Bird.
“My heart aches for the loss of my brother but it hurts even more for my Mom. My mother only has three babies left out of her six. No mother should ever have to bury her children,” the post read.
Bird had served about ten months of his two-and-a-half-year sentence for break and enter with intent, break and enter, commit theft and possession of break in instruments.
An autopsy is scheduled to take place on Friday or early next week in Saskatoon.
Read the full statement from the sister of Jason Bird, Holly Lafond: