Edmonton

Edmonton Institution inmate alleges abuse behind bars during pandemic

Correctional Service Canada has been informed about an inmate's allegations that Edmonton Institution officers are taking advantage of the pandemic by assaulting prisoners and denying them treatment.

Prisoner's concerns have been sent to Correctional Service Canada

Luqman Osman is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 13 years for second-degree murder. (Supplied by Osman family)

An inmate at the maximum-security Edmonton Institution alleges correctional officers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic by assaulting prisoners and denying them medical treatment. 

Luqman Osman finds it difficult to sleep at night. 

He's alone in a cell at the maximum-security Edmonton Institution, one of 24 inmates in the newly named Structural Integration Unit (SIU). It used to be known as segregation. 

Osman said another inmate two cells down from him cries in pain every night.

"He's got broken ribs because he got the hell beat out of him by maybe six guards," Osman told CBC News. "He can't sleep on his right side because his ribs are broken. His knee is dislocated."

Osman said he heard the inmate tell correctional officers he needed to go to the hospital. 

He said he heard the guards respond, "The hospital is only for coronavirus. You're breathing. You're fine."

Osman said on another day, he heard the same inmate asking a nurse if he could get an X-ray. He said the inmate was told the X-ray operator was off work due to the pandemic and therefore the machine was not available.

"They are taking advantage of the coronavirus by assaulting inmates and refusing them health care," Osman said. 

What used to be known as a segregation range in a federal prison. (Office of the Correctional Investigator )

He cited other examples. 

"Another guy has an ear infection," Osman said. "He has an ear infection by getting beat. There's green stuff coming out of his ear."

He said the inmate was told he'd be placed on a doctor's list. 

"He's been here for two weeks," Osman said. "He hasn't seen a doctor."

'Dedicated health-care services available to inmates'

All of the allegations made by Osman were forwarded to the Correctional Service Canada, the Correctional Investigator of Canada and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. 

In an email to CBC News, Ivan Zinger, the federal correctional investigator, said he couldn't comment on specific cases but did say "we are investigating Edmonton Institution." 

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers declined comment. 

A spokesperson with Correctional Service Canada did not confirm or deny any of the allegations made by Osman. 

Edmonton Institution is a federal maximum-security facility with capacity for 324 male inmates. (CBC)

Instead, Kelly Dae Dash pointed to the CSC legislative mandate to provide every federal inmate with essential health care. 

"The Edmonton Institution has dedicated health-care services available to inmates," she said in an email. "In addition, temporary absences that are considered medically necessary continue to proceed to ensure essential health care is provided to inmates in our custody."

Band-Aids instead of stitches 

Osman also alleges that after spending one week in SIU, he only saw one inmate in the unit transferred to hospital for medical assistance.

"A guy has slashed his neck because of how they were treating him here," he claimed. "So he actually had to go to the hospital. He has a big gash on his neck and he almost killed himself."

Another inmate failed to get the same transfer, according to Osman, when his hand was bleeding heavily after prison staff allegedly opened his cell door forcefully. Osman said the inmate was trying to keep it closed after demanding to speak to a unit manager. 

"All night, the guy was bleeding," Osman said. "He pressed the emergency button and was waiting for 45 minutes before they came."

He said he heard staff say, "Oh it looks really bad. We can't take you to the hospital now. Looks like you need stitches." 

Osman said instead the inmate was given Band-Aids. 

"They abuse you physically, emotionally and mentally," he said.

Hunger strike last week

Last week, Osman and some of his fellow inmates were conducting a hunger strike to protest treatment by prison staff and their response to the pandemic. 

Dash, the CSC spokesperson, acknowledged the hunger strike. 

"A manager has spoken with those offenders and noted their requests and concerns," she wrote.  "Health Services and the management team at Edmonton Institution will continue to monitor the health and well-being of those offenders."

CSC statistics show that to date, five inmates at the Edmonton Institution have been tested for COVID-19. All tests have been negative.

Osman is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 13 years after he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2018.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston