Calgary Remand Centre conditions may be leading to shorter sentences, says lawyer

A Calgary defence lawyer says criminals may start getting shorter sentences if living conditions at the Remand Centre don't improve.

Maggie O'Shaughnessy claims she has several clients who have had their rights violated

Hundreds of inmates awaiting trial are housed at the Calgary Remand Centre. They have been accused of crimes, but now some are accusing guards there of mistreatment. (CBC)

A Calgary defence lawyer says criminals may start getting shorter sentences if living conditions at the Remand Centre don't improve. 

Maggie O'Shaughnessy says she has several clients currently in remand — a temporary detention of a person awaiting trial or sentencing — who claim their rights are being violated by guards. 

Defence lawyer Maggie O'Shaughnessy says she can't be certain, but she believes at least one of her clients received credit during sentencing for complaints that their rights were violated. (CBC)

"I have a number of files and I will be seeking lesser sentences on each and every one of them," she said. "Maybe the public should be concerned about that, maybe the Crown office should be concerned about that, maybe the minister of justice should be concerned about that." 

She says YashirFadul Aden, who sentenced to five years for being part of a home invasion and kidnapping, was likely given more credit for time served based on his complaints. 

He was given a day-and-a-half credit for each day he had served up to that point. 

"In this particular case we had documentary evidence that his personal papers had been torn up by guards [and] his Qur'an had to be replaced," said O'Shaughnessy.

"And the most particular, from my point of view, was a death threat made to him over a microphone by a guard."

In a written response to the allegation, the guard involved explained he simply said to the inmate "You're dead to me." 

Complaints are rare, says Correctional Services

Correctional Services Alberta says the guard was interviewed but not disciplined, and that complaints like Aden's are rare.

"It's actually quite infrequent because a lot of the times the mistreatment that's being articulated is really a matter of miscommunication," said Curtis Clarke with Alberta's Correctional Services.

But in 2012, convicted killer Mohamed Karim claimed guards had taken his Qur'an and torn up prayer papers as well. 

Mohamed Karim was convicted in the death of Jack Beauchamp, 49, the head of a mortgage lending company, who was shot six times and found dead in his downtown office in January 2006.

"What I do is I complain and that irritates the officers — retaliation for complaining," he said in a phone interview from the Calgary Remand Centre.

Karim also claims he was manhandled by a guard and sexually assaulted during a cavity search.

But in this most recent accusation regarding the religious book, Correctional Services says it was simply put on the floor during a security search.

"Recognizing that that was inappropriate, and as a result of that had asked for another Qur'an, we then gave him another one recognizing that his concerns were valid," said Curtis.

Alberta Justice says in a written statement that corrections staff address inmate complaints on an ongoing basis, and any complaints or allegations of criminal behaviour are "treated very seriously."


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