Edmonton

Edmonton lawyer files complaint about remand centre meme on Facebook

An Edmonton criminal lawyer says a meme he saw posted on a Facebook page belonging to the head of security at the Edmonton Remand Centre shows an underlying negative attitude guards have toward prisoners.

Image with a 'really bad message' posted on head of security's Facebook page

Meme taken off Ken Johnston's Facebook page. (Supplied)

An Edmonton criminal lawyer says a meme he saw posted on a Facebook page belonging to the head of security at the Edmonton Remand Centre shows an underlying negative attitude guards have toward prisoners.

Tom Engel said he saw the picture on a Facebook page that belongs to Ken Johnston, head of security at the remand centre.

"It's a really bad message," Engel said. "This is on public Facebook, it reflects very badly on Alberta corrections that this would happen." 

The illustration shows five guards in protective gear crouching in a line behind a large shield. It's titled "Edmonton Remand Centre Room Service."

Engel said the image depicts the response team that inmates refer to as the "goon squad."

"If something happens, like a couple of inmates fight, or there's some kind of a problem between a guard and an inmate, quite often the goon squad is called in and people get hurt," Engel said. "And it's not guards. So there's real excessive force problems. This meme represents that kind of attitude."

Engel said he saw the meme on Sunday and quickly filed a formal complaint with associate deputy justice minister Dennis Cooley.

The lawyer said Cooley replied by Wednesday, and told him the remand centre's executive director had spoken to Johnston about the meme, and that it had been removed from the Facebook page. 

Engel said he told Cooley in an email he did not think the ministry's response was sufficient. 

"With all due respect, my position is this is inadequate,"  Engel wrote. "Nothing was done to address his (Johnston's) underlying attitude toward prisoners, especially given his position. And nothing was done to determine who created the meme and gave it to him, if he was not the creator."

Johnston did not respond to the CBC's request for an interview.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for Alberta Justice said an inquiry had been conducted into the matter that followed department policy, and the complaint had been "addressed promptly."

Alberta Justice said it would not provide further comment due to privacy issues, because the complaint involves a human resources matter. 

Engel said some guards are violent.

"They hate inmates, they're militant and their responses to minor incidents are sometimes way over the top," he said. 

"The other thing that is a great concern is that he (Johnston) would put this on Facebook so the public can see it, and if he's going to do something like that it makes you wonder how he behaves when he's on the job and nobody in the public knows how he's behaving."

The lawyer said he'll think about what his next move is, but he isn't ruling out taking the complaint higher. 

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