Last January, three guards in riot gear held Michael Nehass to the floor of a room in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre where he was to appear by video in court. The judge and lawyers watched and listened as Nehass pleaded for a towel to cover up.
Justice Leigh Gower says he should have ended the hearing as soon as he realized the prisoner was naked.
"I sincerely apologize to Mr. Nehass for the embarrassment I caused him by not acting to improve the situation sooner. I fully appreciate how he views this incident as an affront to his dignity.”
Gower’s apology is part of a decision by the Canadian Judicial Council, which hears complaints about judges. Russ Nehass, Michael’s father, filed a complaint in July.
In its response to Russ Nehass on Nov. 18, the judicial council says Gower meant well and was not completely aware of what was going on.
The council says the matter is closed.
But prisoner advocate Leslie Robert said there are unresolved issues.
Michael Nehass says he was beaten and stripped, "dragged down the hallway face first and then restrained at his court hearing naked,” Robert notes. “The Justice Department simply denies he was beaten and stripped by the guards.”
Robert said the department has refused to let anyone view video of the incident to verify the guards' account.
Nehass had a violent criminal record before entering the jail three years ago.
Robert says his mental state has become much worse because of prolonged periods in solitary confinement, which has a devastating impact on prisoners.
“What I've heard is their senses are very exaggerated,” Robert says. “All their senses are more pronounced when they get around other people, so they have a hard time, it takes time adjusting to be around other people again.”
Nehass has been charged in four separate incidents since entering the jail.
They include accusations of breaking a guard's nose and attempting to escape.