A gay Vancouver man is claiming that corrections officers ignored his safety and security when he was allegedly gaybashed in a Lower Mainland prison last month.
Brian Payette, 46, says he was taken into custody at the end of July after he allegedly breached a court order to stay away from a particular area of the city. The order was the result of an ongoing dispute with an acquaintance. Payette was taken to city cells for two days then transported to the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre, where he claims the gaybashing took place.
Payette says he was punched in the head during an initial altercation with a fellow inmate and was consequently placed in another cell, where he says he was assaulted a second time.
“My life was in jeopardy,” Payette claims. “He came into my room and started beating me, and you can’t do that. He started bashing me and said, ‘I told you to leave, faggot.’”
“He was beating me and pounding me in front of the corrections officer,” Payette continues. “And they didn’t secure my safety and security. They were negligent,” he alleges.
Payette says officers eventually took control of the situation and gave him medical attention. However, he says the three minutes it took for officers to defuse the situation was too long.
“They put me in another cell after the first attack, and they should have had me removed from the unit,” he says.
Payette believes the perpetrator of the second assault is friends with the man who first attacked him.
Payette says the ordeal has been so distressing that he has found a lawyer to file charges against one of the inmates. He also says he is considering filing suit against the prison.
“They need to start correcting their behaviour instead of letting the prisoners bully other prisoners,” he says.
Payette claims that openly gay prisoners risk being targeted in jail. Though he was not personally segregated from the general inmate population, he believes gay prisoners often are, which makes him feel as if they’re being punished.
“If you’re openly gay they put you in the ‘hole’ like you’ve done something wrong,” he claims. “They put you in protective custody… It’s segregation.”
But Marnie Mayhew, spokesperson for BC Corrections, which oversees the North Fraser Pre-trail Centre, says prisoners are placed in protective custody for various reasons, including their own protection.
“We take our responsibility for the safety of our inmates and staff very seriously,” she says.
Mayhew could not speak to the Payette case directly because of inmate confidentiality, but she says the provincial corrections system is governed by regulations to identify and protect potential hate-crime victims, including ones targeted based on their sexual orientation.
“Our staff are well trained, specifically in diversity and the prevention of harassment and discrimination,” she says.
Mayhew says gay inmates are protected under a section in the Corrections Act that includes the statement: “A person must not behave in a manner toward another person that shows hatred or contempt based on a person’s sexual orientation.”
Mayhew says that if inmates challenge these rules BC Corrections can lay charges.
Further, Mayhew says, there is a “risk assessment and classification process” that inmates go through when admitted to a prison or remand centre. The process determines where the inmate will be placed within the facility in order to protect their safety and the safety of other inmates and staff.
“The intention is to find the most appropriate fit in our centre so inmates remain safe.”
Asked why Payette would be kept in a unit where he was allegedly assaulted not once but twice in three days, Mayhew again says she can’t discuss the details of the case file.
Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Const Jamie Chung confirms his detachment was called in to investigate the case after Payette requested charges be laid against his alleged attacker.
“We take these files very seriously,” Chung says, adding that in these types of potential hate-crime cases, the victim could be hurt severely during an assault.
Chung says all RCMP investigations include “old-fashioned police work,” which includes talking to the victim, interviewing corrections officers, obtaining film footage and questioning witnesses. He confirms there were witnesses to the alleged assault on Payette.
Chung says a police report was sent to Crown counsel on Aug 24.