ALBERTA

Saskatchewan Penitentiary Riot Ends In Inmate's Death

12/15/2016 01:27 EST | Updated 12/15/2016 07:26 EST

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — A riot involving 185 prisoners at a prison in northern Saskatchewan has left one inmate dead, eight prisoners injured and a large part of the institution uninhabitable.

Correctional Service Canada spokesman Jeff Campbell said the riot at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert started Wednesday in the medium-security unit, which houses 377 prisoners.

"They set up barricades. They lit some fires. There was also an assault on some inmates, one of whom has unfortunately died from his injuries," Campbell said Thursday in a phone interview.

The dead inmate, Jason Leonard Bird, was 43 and had been serving a sentence of two years and seven months since February for break and enter and theft convictions.

saskatchewan penitentiary

The men's maximum security unit is shown at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, Sask. (Photo: CP)

A woman who identified herself as Bird's sister posted about his death on Facebook, saying he was taken too young.

"My heart aches for the loss of my brother but it hurts even more for my Mom. My mother only has three babies left out of her six ... no mother should ever have to bury her children," wrote Holly Lynn.

"My brother was a warrior. Under all of his scary tough exterior, my brother had a heart of gold and strong love for his boys and family."

Two other inmates were also hurt seriously enough to be taken to hospital.

Campbell said corrections officers fired their guns in an effort to get the situation under control.

"My brother was a warrior. Under all of his scary tough exterior, my brother had a heart of gold and strong love for his boys and family."

"This is something that is very carefully controlled, but required as a last ditch effort in a very serious situation like this," he said.

Six more inmates were hurt in the emergency response. However, none of those injuries is considered life-threatening.

Campbell couldn't say how many shots were fired, if the injured inmates were shot or if Bird was specifically targeted in the attack.

A full review of what happened is underway. Police are also investigating.

Saskatchewan RCMP said in a news release Thursday that they are in the very early stages of the investigation. No charges have been laid, Mounties said.

An autopsy on Bird's body is expected to take place in Saskatoon on Friday or early next week.

A spokesman for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said the trouble began when inmates in the medium-security unit refused to be locked up as part of their normal routine and then started barricading the entrance to the unit when negotiations with staff broke down.

"In the rioting area, every window is smashed out and all the heat registers are pulled off the walls and smashed. So the place is completely destroyed."

James Bloomfield said members have told him a large part of the unit is now uninhabitable.

"In the rioting area, every window is smashed out and all the heat registers are pulled off the walls and smashed. So the place is completely destroyed," Bloomfield said. "That area will have to be closed and fixed."

Bloomfield said the Saskatchewan Penitentiary houses 900 to 1,000 prisoners and that inmates in the medium-security area are serving time for a variety of crimes, including murder. About 400 correctional officers are employed at the prison.

"From my members, they said (the trouble) had been bubbling for a few days for sure. I'm not exactly 100 per cent positive about what it was over," said Bloomfield. "There are a few different stories right now about what could have been the actual trigger, I guess."

"They are nowhere near to a normal routine and won't be for a very long time."

Saskatchewan Penitentiary continued to be in lockdown Thursday and Correctional Service Canada said all visits have been suspended.

"They are nowhere near to a normal routine and won't be for a very long time," said Bloomfield. "They're still in the stage of moving people and trying to figure out how to house inmates, or how many to move to another institution."

Campbell would not speculate on how many prisoners, if any, would have to be moved outside the prison.

The prison has been the scene of a number of escapes in recent years. This year, convicted murder Roger Joseph Gillet got out but was recaptured quickly.

In 2015, there were six escapes, though all were recaptured within a couple of weeks.

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