Sexual Humiliation Being Used To Keep Female Inmates In Line by Michelle L. Erstikaitis

May 12, 2014

Sexual Humiliation Being Used To Keep Female Inmates In Line

Written by Investigative Journalist

Michelle L. Erstikaitis

In the late nineties, Kingston Penitentiary For
Women was closed after a horrific scandal
resulting from a prison riot that led to the public
showing male prison officers holding inmates
down and cutting their clothing off of them during
a forced strip-search.

Despite the lack of sexual penetration, the
similarity between what those male officers had
done and a sexual assault was pretty obvious.
The public was outraged. Yet what the public
does not know is that right now, the sexual
humiliation tactics are still being used against
female prisoners in Federal (and some
Provincial) Institutions across Canada.

According to Commissioner’s Directive 567-1
article 27, a female inmate may be videotaped by
Correctional Officers while she is naked and
showering if she has been pepper-sprayed. I
discovered this by personal experience in
October 2012, when I was in prison in Quebec.
From the moment I arrived in the prison,
correctional officers were harassing me and
bullying me in a way that I had never experienced
before and I couldn’t understand. They issued
me as many disciplinary charges as they could
and I was telephoning the office of the
Correctional Investigator everyday, sometimes
two or three times, to report the harassment.

I had never seen Correctional Officers treat
another inmate in this manner and I was baffled
at why they were doing it to me, and why nobody
would help me. Yet now you know why. They
changed my security level to maximum. Because
of the myths printed in the media about my
supposed violent temperament, they were trying
to instigate my temper so that when I snapped,
hopefully I would do something violent and then
they could pepper-spray me and humiliate me by
videotaping me in the shower afterward.
Unfortunately, I only figured it out AFTER they
finally succeeded in inciting my temper.

My violent reaction? While locked inside of a
segregation cell for no reason, I yelled at the
officers and called them names. They came in, a
huge group of officers dressed in full riot squad
regalia, and pepper-sprayed me as I was lying in
bed, and then video-recorded me in the shower as
I was rinsing off the pepper-spray – because I had
been yelling.

On December 26, 2013, I submitted an official
complaint about being video-recorded in the
shower rinsing off pepper-spray and on January
27, 2014, Jean-Francois Joly of Joliette Institution,
replied that it had all been perfectly legal. On
January 30, 2014, I submitted a request under the
Privacy Act, requesting to view the Joliette
recording, as permissible under section 17 (1) (a)
of the Privacy Act, and on February 19 2014, I
received a reply from Mihaela Ciocarlan, the
Senior Privacy Officer in the Access to
Information and Privacy Division stating that due
to Section 22 (1) (c) of the Privacy Act, I could not
view of obtain a copy of the video because it could
be “injurious to the security of the Penal
Institution.”

In other words, if the video should be leaked to
the public, there would be an outcry. So, it is
legal to videotape inmates naked in the shower.

Unfortunately, that’s not all. Recently, I had the
misfortune of being the object of even more
sexual abuse, while in Edmonton, Alberta, and
apparently this too, is perfectly legal. In
mid-November 2013, at Calgary Remand Centre,
prior to my being transferred to Edmonton
Institution for women for a one-night stay before
catching a flight back to Ontario, I was sexually
humiliated by two female officers during a
strip-search. The female officers put me on a
suicide watch with no explanation of precipitating
reason, and as they were strip-searching me, they
handed me a suicide gown that was at least four
sizes too small for me. Now, I am a size zero, a
very petite woman, and this suicide gown is the
smallest I had ever seen. I tried to put it on but
couldn’t. The female officers told me that if I
didn’t put the gown on, they were going to pepper-
spray me, even though they knew fully well that
the gown was too small.

They were going to pepper-spray me during a
strip-search, while I was completely naked. I
strongly suspect that the too-small gown was
created exactly for this purpose. When I
expressed my displeasure over this incident to a
male superintendant, he told me that in the
Alberta Prison System, if an inmate stands out
from the others in any way, “it upsets the natural
balance of things and creates disorder,” so his
officers will use any means necessary to “bring
the inmate back in line.”

I spoke with several male inmates while I was
held on the Calgary Remand Centre psychiatric
wing, which is a co-ed. Male inmates are
routinely beaten and told that the security
cameras in the hallways to monitor the behavior
of the Correctional Officers are ‘broken’. So
apparently, women are kept in line with sexual
humiliation rather than beatings.

On the afternoon on Tuesday, November 19, 2013,
I was transferred from Calgary Remand Centre to
Edmonton Institution for women, which by the
way is where Ashley Smith is from. The moment I
stepped off the paddy wagon and onto the
Property of Edmonton Institution, I was met by a
large group of Maximum Security Officers and
one of them was video-recording me. She
video-recorded me as I stepped inside of the
institution and was led to a cell on the segregation
unit; and she continued to video-record me as I
was being strip-searched. I objected when I saw
the camera saying, “You can’t videotape me
while I’m being strip-searched!”

The female officer recording me snapped, “I’m
only videotaping your head.” So, just as all other
inmates do, unless they want to be held down and
have their clothing ripped off of them, which was
done to me once in 2003 at a courthouse in
Kitchener, Ontario when I refused a strip-search,
I complied with the search.

It turns out that I should have refused, should
have caused a fuss. I have been returned to
Federal Prisons countless times on breach
charges over marijuana use since 2003, and I
have always been a medium security inmate. My
institutional record is spotless, with absolutely no
fighting with other inmates, no suicidal behavior
and virtually no problems. Until I was transferred
to Joliette.

Apparently, the law says that only the strip
searches of maximum security inmates can be
video-recorded. The Correctional Officers
conducting the admission search have the option
of video-recording the inmate or video-recording
the officer who is conducting the search. (Please
refer to the Commissioner’s Directives
concerning strip searches of Federal Offenders.)

Since 2003, I have NEVER been pepper-sprayed in
a Federal Institution and/or had myself
video-recorded in the shower, nor have I EVER
had a strip-search video recorded. Joliette prison
guards set me up to be a max inmate. After
complaining to the Correctional Investigator, I
discovered that legally, these things are
permissible in certain circumstances – mainly, if
you are a max security inmate. Now, the recent
video-recording of my strip search at Edmonton
Institution left me concerned about the possibility
for sexual exploitation.

I believe that there are various pornography
websites that specialize in prison rape scenarios.
So, I put in a Privacy Act request to view and
receive a copy of the videotape of my admission
to Edmonton Institution. On January 17, 2014 I
received a reply from the Senior Privacy Officer,
Mihaela Ciocarlan, saying that they had carefully
searched their records for a copy of the videotape
and they have no record of it. So, my strip search
was video-recorded and the video-recording has
disappeared.

Is that, along with being recorded in the shower
in Joliette in October, 2012 the only sexual
humiliation/abuse that I have received at the
hands of correctional authorities in the past
couple of years? As a matter of fact, no.

In June 2012, while residing in a Brampton
halfway house, I was arrested on a trumped up
charge on June 3 rd , 2012 (and released to Quebec
one week later) and taken to a Brampton police
station, where I was strip searched by one off the
arresting officers. The woman took me into a
room and told me to take off my clothing. When I
had stripped down to my bra and panties, she told
me to stop stripping, turn around and place my
hands on the wall. She then proceeded to pat me
down, while I stood there naked except for my
underwear. This is not legal. Police officers are
not supposed to touch you during a strip search.

So, since June of 2012, I have been sexually
humiliated by authorities of several occasions in
a way that I have never experienced in prior
years. I have been asking myself, “Why is this
happening?” And I have figured out the answer.

In my Corrections Canada security file, there is a
psychiatric report written about me in 2011 by a
Psychologist named Dr. Michael Colleton.
During a series of interviews with Dr. Colleton, I
revealed something traumatic that was done to
me at Metro West Detention Centre in 2002, when
I was brought to the prison and held as a victim
witness in a sexual assault case. I revealed to Dr.
Colleton that while in segregation, a Correctional
Officer was rude to me for no reason, and I got
into an argument with her where the situation
ended with me refusing to a strip search.

My clothes were ripped off of me and I was
hog-tied while completely naked, with a group of
seven or eight male and female correctional
officers standing there. I told Colleton that this
horrible event was very traumatic for me,
especially since I had been in the prison because
I had to go to court as the victim/witness of a
sexual assault.

Unbelievably, Federal Correctional Officers have
been passing that report around, reading about
my traumatic experience at Metro West Detention
Centre in 2002, and doing their best to recreate it.
Why would they want to do this? Because I’ve
begun to make something of myself and work in
Politics. After my Toronto Sun interview with
Terry Davidson in April 2011, Correctional
Services Canada has decided that I need to be
taken down notch or two and put back ‘in my
place’.

How are they attempting to accomplish that? With
sexual humiliation. And as it turns out, the
Canadian law is on their side and the office of the
Correctional Investigator and the Privacy
Commissioner are conspiring to cover it up.

If these abuses are being perpetrated on me, and
I am intelligent enough to figure out how and
why, then just imagine what is being done to
unsuspecting, less intelligent women. Scary!

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