EDMONTON - A spokeswoman with Alberta Justice has confirmed a female prisoner with a lengthy history of violent crimes has been charged after another prisoner was taken hostage at an Edmonton courthouse last month.
Michelle Davio confirms Serena Nicotine, 31, is charged with hostage taking and possession of a weapon. The charges stemmed from an incident May 22 where police allege a woman used a lens from a pair of eyeglasses to take a fellow prisoner hostage.
The incident at the courthouse occurred in the holding cells. It ended peacefully after about two hours when police said a negotiator managed to talk the suspect into giving herself up.
Davio said Nicotine was at court that day to face another hostage-taking charge, but she couldn't provide further details.
Davio refused to say whether extra security precautions were taken when Nicotine appeared in court last month.
"We don't comment on security procedures," Davio said in an email on Saturday.
Nicotine received a life sentence for the 1997 slaying of a group home operator in North Battleford, Sask., and has had a history of violence behind bars.
In 2000, Nicotine held a prison guard captive, burning her blindfolded face with a cigarette and setting her hair on fire. It prompted correction officials to draft a new policy on dealing with the most dangerous women in custody, according to a 2004 Corrections Service report.
Earlier in 2000, she held a nurse hostage at knifepoint for three hours at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon.
The corrections report, which looked into a standoff at the Edmonton Institution for Women in 2004 that it said began when Nicotine smashed a TV set and took another inmate hostage, said the corrections strategy for coping with dangerous women prisoners wasn't working as far as Nicotine was concerned. It noted an individual plan was developed to deal with her.
The report said the 2004 incident ended when guards overpowered Nicotine when she was handing over a list of demands.
At the time of the report, the union representing prison guards told Corrections officials that Nicotine needed to be in super-maximum security, but no such facility existed in Canada for women.
Kevin Grabowsky, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said that's unfortunately still the case.
"It's certainly a huge concern for prison staff," Grabowsky said Saturday.
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