From “muscling” inmates for their phone time to “shanks” fashioned from toothbrushes, a hearing got a glimpse Tuesday into the tensions and gang culture at the Regina jail.
A 32-year veteran employee of the Regina Correctional Centre traced the impact of gangs at the jail, and Anthony Joseph Slippery’s role in that life in testimony at a hearing that will decide the 35-year-old man’s fate.
Paul Brown, an assistant deputy director at the jail, remembered Slippery as a personable, well-spoken young man when he first came to the jail in 1997. But reports of his infractions behind bars spanning nearly two decades tell of a man with a violent history who would, in the service of the Native Syndicate gang, intimidate and beat fellow inmates on occasion.
Slippery is before the court after being found guilty of assault causing bodily harm for stabbing his uncle’s roommate in the face with a pen on Feb. 19, 2012. Slippery hit the news in April 2012 when an Amber Alert was issued to locate his young daughter. It led to charges of abduction, common assault and threatening, but Slippery was ultimately acquitted on those allegations.
The Crown has now applied to have Slippery, who has spent the past three years in remand at the jail, designated a dangerous or long-term offender, raising the possibility of a lengthy period of incarceration plus up to a decade of community supervision. Provincial court Judge Anna Crugnale-Reid could also reject those options and sentence Slippery in the regular way.
While there’s always been inmates who try to “run the range,” gangs started to become a problem about two decades ago, when a riot at a Manitoba prison resulted in gang members being transferred to Saskatchewan jails, Brown noted. Today, three “gang units” at the jail segregate more violent members or followers and ensure rivals are separated.
Slippery recorded his first jail infraction in September 1998 when a shank – a homemade knife fashioned from a sharpened paintbrush – was found in his cell. Under questioning by Crown prosecutor Roger DeCorby, Brown said Slippery was known to be involved with the Native Syndicate gang.
Brown said shanks – usually made from toothbrushes and razor blades – are routinely discovered. “Every time you get them to brush their teeth or shave, it’s a potential shank,” he added. He agreed with defence lawyer Kevin Hill that inmates may have one as much for defence as to intimidate.
After a couple gangrelated disputes in 1998, Slippery was involuntarily transferred to the Saskatoon jail. In August 1999, he was involved with other gang members in an incident that saw cells flooded and fires set. Two days later, Slippery threatened a jail staff member, pointing out they need only “check his record” if they didn’t think the threat was real. Brown told the court he believed it was in reference to Slippery having once “brutally attacked” a female youth worker.
Other notations in the years that followed referenced concerns about him and other Native Syndicate followers muscling inmates by charging them “rent” – forcing them to turn over their canteen goods – or for phone use.
Similar problems arose in 2006 when he was sent back to the jail for an aggravated assault on a 74-year-old female relative, who lost an eye because of the attack.
A new phone system that limits the time and requires a PIN code was installed in 2009, court heard. But Brown said that with 70 inmates and nine phones in a remand unit, tensions still run high. In 2011, Slippery was again caught muscling inmates for phone use. Brown explained that some weaker inmates are forced to use their PIN and phone privileges for other inmates.
As recently as June last year, Brown testified, Slippery was involved in what was believed to be a Native Syndicate-ordered assault on another offender, whom Slippery beat.
In cross-examination, Brown agreed that when gangs are recruiting, offenders don’t always have a choice. “They join up; they survive.”
He said Slippery isn’t necessarily high up in a gang or even still a member – but he has been a willing participant when incarcerated. The hearing is expected to continue into next week.