Steven Best hospital escape triggers call for change

The escape by violent offender Steven Best from Royal University Hospital triggered a call for change in procedure in a Justice Ministry report.

Report says Corrections Officers need practical training

A report by the province's Justice Ministry is calling for changes to the way serving prisoners are escorted on trips to the hospital.

The recommendations follow Steven Best's escape in April from Royal University Hospital. Best's violent record triggered a sweeping manhunt across the city by police. He was arrested within 24 hours.

But the way he escaped raised troubling questions that government officials are still trying to address.

Did the guards do anything wrong?- Corrections deputy minister Dale McFee

"As far as, did the guards do anything wrong? I mean that's going to come out in the criminal component of the investigation and obviously what happened to make things go wrong is obviously going to be part of a criminal trial," said Corrections deputy minister Dale McFee.

"I think it's important that we're obviously on the same page and they know when we're bringing in an individual that's at risk. But I don't think it's the responsibility of the hospital to provide the security. The training comes from the correctional workers that are obviously in charge of the inmate."

Best had a significant penitentiary history by the time he ended up at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre this spring.

When his 11-year federal sentence ran out in March, he was transferred to the local jail.

In April, he was sent to Royal University Hospital for treatment of an undisclosed medical condition.

Facing robbery charges

Best was in a hospital – not a prison – under guard by two correctional officers. He’d already served a stretch in prison, and was facing fresh charges for a violent attempted armed robbery.

That's when he got his hands on a razor blade.

At the time, McFee said that Best somehow convinced the guards to unshackle him from his bed so that he could go to the bathroom. Then he overpowered one guard and held the razor to her throat – telling the other guard to remove his leg shackles.

The government ordered an investigation to see whether the guards violated restraint policy, and whether that policy needs changing.

It still won't say exactly what happened that day -- other than to recommend that Corrections officers get more practical training.

Once Best escaped, city police swarmed the hospital and launched a room-by-room search.

But it wasn’t until 24 hours later that police re-captured him, and police are intentionally vague on how that happened.

Just after 10 p.m., police spotted a vehicle "that the escaped prisoner may have had access to." Best was a passenger in the vehicle, and gave up without a fight.

Police say that Best did not hijack the vehicle and that no charges would be laid against the driver. Police will not explain the exact relationship between Best and the driver, other than to say the driver "assisted us."


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