Inmate's death raises alarm over prison violence
Aime Simard betrayed a motorcycle gang when he became a police informant in the late 1990s. Police think that betrayal caused his death last July. The murder has some corrections workers raising alarm bells over gang violence in prisons.
In exchange for his help, Simard won early parole despite having killed three people. It also made him a prime target for vengeance from Hells Angels, even while being behind bars.
Simard was found face down in a pool of blood on July 18, 2003, with more than 70 stab wounds. Footprints leading from Simard's to a neigbouring cell made Alvin Starblanket a suspect.
But what happened to Simard has corrections officials and police concerned about the growth of gang violence in Canada's prison system.
Though Simard was not a Hells Angel, he was a lover of an Angels associate who was also a crucial police informant. Simard killed three people for a rival gang. After he was arrested in 1997, he struck a deal with authorities and began to talk.
That made him a marked man. Simard felt hunted in prison, expecting the Hells Angels to strike back.
Sources tell CBC he asked for a transfer from British Columbia to the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, where he thought he would be safe.
Shortly after arriving in the Prince Albert facility last summer, Simard was dead. His murder remains unsolved and prison warden Peter Guenther remains tight-lipped about it all.
CBC News has learned there were warnings to prison officials in the weeks before the killing, including talk of gang trouble, and a tip that Simard and other inmates would be attacked.
Police think three men with links to First Nations gangs stabbed Simard to death. There were also two men in the cell block who are being called associates of the Hells Angels.
The co-author of a book on gangs says the system failed to protect Simard. Julian Sher says the high-profile informant should have been in protective custody.
"You are in a prison with other bad guys. You've been a traitor and if you are not in protective custody, your days are numbered," Sher said.
With Simard's murder, Sher says, the Hells Angels sent a warning to any future informants.
A veteran corrections officer says he wasn't surprised to learn of Simard's death. Kevin Grabowsky is a union spokesperson for prison guards. Though he wouldn't talk about the details of the Simard murder, he says violence is increasing in the prison system and Saskatchewan Penitentiary is no exception.
"All penitentiaries are potentially dangerous. They have the potential for violence to break out at any time. This particular penitentiary lately has been having its fair share of problems," he said.
Grabowsky says corrections downplays the problem and ignores front-line staff.
Guenther won't talk about Simard's murder because of the ongoing investigation, but admits there are some serious questions about the prison's security procedures.
"Was the preventative security measures that were taken sufficient to prevent this? Or was everything that could have been done or should have been done done to prevent this incident from occurring?"
No one has been charged and RCMP declined an invitation to talk about the case.
However, an expert in organized crime says it's not unusual for bikers to work with street gangs, even behind bars.
Bob Bazin, of the Saskatchewan branch of the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, says the Hells Angels are building alliances with the aboriginal gangs.
"By virtue that they've either met on the street or met in a correctional setting," Bazin said, "they will, from time to time, work together whether it be having the street gang members sell some drugs for them, or perhaps approach people for the payment of debt those kinds of things."