There may be plenty of mystery surrounding the violent death of one of Manitoba’s highest-ranking bikers inside a provincial jail.
But there is no doubt issues of overcrowding, resources and correctional officer safety will once again be put under a microscope following this latest attack behind bars. Those who work closely in the system have often described it as a powder-keg waiting to explode.
Several justice sources say Sunday’s incident at the Brandon Correctional Centre — the second slaying in a Manitoba jail or prison this year — may be the proverbial tipping point. There are also fears it could spark retaliation in what is already a volatile situation within the criminal underworld in the province.
Jean Paul Beaumont was found dead inside his cell just after 10 a.m. under what police have called “suspicious circumstances.” Multiple justice sources have told both the Free Press and the Brandon Sun that Beaumont was stabbed to death, presumably with some type of homemade “shank.” Police would only say they are awaiting autopsy results.
“It was probably a hit,” one source told the Free Press. “It will be interesting to see who did it. He was on the Rock Machine range. A turncoat?”
The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union declined to comment on the specific incident Monday, citing the ongoing police investigation. But sources within the union say there is growing frustration about the current conditions within seven adult jails including Brandon.
A recent survey done by the MGEU found 82 per cent of the province’s guards say overcrowding of prisoners is the main problem they face in the workplace. And 85 per cent said the problem has got a lot worse in the last three years.
The statistics back them up. Since 2008-09, there are nearly 600 more prisoners behind bars in provincial jails. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the average population nearly doubled to from 1,184 inmates to 2,214 inmates. As of Monday, there were 373 inmates at the Brandon Correctional Centre, 125 more than the jail’s rated capacity, which is 248 inmates, a spokesman told the Brandon Sun.
Approximately 50 people were bunking down in the BCC gymnasium earlier this year. Double- and triple-bunking is the norm rather than the exception.
“At some point, with the overcrowding, (the guards) think there will be a riot,” Wales predicted earlier this year. She said overcrowding makes everything harder — from separating and segregating rival gang members to offering rehabilitation programs to help ensure when prisoners are released they are less likely to reoffend.
Sources say Beaumont’s death leaves a major void within the ranks of the Rock Machine, which is trying to create a foothold in Manitoba.
» Winnipeg Free Press, with files from Mia Rabson and the Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 16, 2012