Steven Best pleads guilty to RUH escape and hostage taking

Steven Eric Best pleaded guilty to taking two guards hostage and escaping custody while on a hospital visit last year.

Escape triggered review of prisoner escort practises by province.

Steven Best (Saskatoon Police)

A man who took two Corrections officers hostage in Saskatoon during an escape from Royal University Hospital pleaded guilty to charges related to the incident from last year

Steven Eric Best pleaded guilty to assaulting the officers, taking them hostage and escaping custody.

The circumstances of the escape led to a review by the province.

Saskatoon Correctional Centre (CBC)
Last April, Best's escape from Royal University Hospital -- and his violent history -- 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 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 significant Penitentiary history

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

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. CST, 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.

Best returns to court next month. The Crown will be applying for a dangerous offender hearing.