Knifing leaves prison on edge

Bowden lockdown 2nd in a week

Linda Slobodian, Calgary Herald

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The stabbing of an inmate has led to the second full lockdown at Bowden Institution in less than a week -- prompting guards to threaten to walk out if prisoners were let out of their cells before the weapon was found.

Adam Whalen, 20, was stabbed Monday afternoon in his cell, beside a guard kiosk at the medium-minimum security prison.

It's believed the attack was gang-related.

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"The stabbing happened during mass inmate movement, right in front of where the officers were sitting, so it's disheartening to know they are getting that brazen," said one Correctional Service of Canada employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"The wound was very clean, almost surgical. That tells us the weapon they used is extremely sharp. The shank was wide. There's concern about his liver and his spleen."

Despite a failed searched of the unit to find the weapon, management met Tuesday at noon and decided to end the lockdown.

In response, unarmed correctional officers threatened to invoke their right to refuse dangerous work under a section of the Canada Labour Code.

"We have a right to refuse dangerous work. Inmates had access to all of the prison, so that weapon could have been moved anywhere," said the guard.

An agreement was reached to continue the lockdown until the entire prison was searched.

The investigation into the attack on Whalen, and possible gang links, is ongoing, said assistant warden Rita Wehrle. "He's doing fine. It happened in his cell. The injuries are not life-threatening," she said.

Whalen was rushed to Innisfail Hospital, then returned to the prison infirmary.

Whalen was incarcerated for a number of offences, including aggravated assault, impaired driving, mischief and failure to comply with release orders. He arrived at Bowden on March 8 from Edmonton Remand.

The attack on Whalen is the 64th reported assault on an inmate in less than a year at Bowden, located 100 kilometres north of Calgary. The prison houses about 550 prisoners, 60 in the minimum security annex.

Homemade weapons -- including razor-sharp knives and axes fashioned from materials stolen from metal and woodworking shops -- fill a room of contraband items confiscated by officers.

Wehrle played down the tension at Bowden.

"This is the first lockdown in the past two weeks," said Wehrle.

Not so, say sources who point to two minor lockdowns last week and a March 14 full lockdown on the heels of a fight involving about 20 inmates.

When guards on Unit 4 pressed the panic alarms, inmates blocked other officers who attempted to respond.

The disruption continued as inmates were "kicking, banging and cranking stereos," said one guard.

"The whole jail was locked down for the night," confirmed Kevin Grabowsky, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers regional president. The union represents 5,700 employees, 1,500 of them in 14 prisons in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

"The most recent attack is believed to be gang-related. We believe these types of incidents are going to continue at Bowden until management realizes the population has changed," said Grabowsky.


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