Inmates sue feds over feelings of 'hopelessness'

A policeman holds a pair of handcuffs. (John Kolesidis/REUTERS Files)

A policeman holds a pair of handcuffs. (John Kolesidis/REUTERS Files)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:37 AM ET

QMI Agency

A group of killers, thieves and rapists is suing the federal government for neglecting their feelings of "hopelessness" and inability to connect emotionally with other people while behind bars.

Five inmates at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary are suing the federal government, seeking $50,000 in damages, saying they've been inflicted with "nervous shock" because of a negligent justice system.

Among them is Harvey Andres, a motorcycle gang member convicted of rape and murder, who has tried multiple times to break out of prison.

Andres is believed to be the same man who in 2001 was convicted and handed his second life sentence for the 1982 sex slaying of 17-year-old Calgary girl Shirley Ann Johnston, who was raped and locked in a closet in her mother's home before it was set ablaze.

Johnston at one time faced 21 additional sexual assault charges revolving around five women and one man -- brought to light at the Johnston trial -- though the Crown dropped them all in 2005, saying Andres was unlikely to ever get out of prison.

He was already serving a life sentence in Edmonton for the 1976 sex slaying of a B.C. woman in 1982 prior to the savage crimes in Calgary, when he escaped a maximum-security institution.

Andres is eligible to apply for parole in 2024, at the age of 76.

In a statement of claim, the thugs say they suffer sleep deprivation, have to "self-deaden in order to cope," can't "enjoy mutuality, connectivity and meaning making," fear for their futures, are "overwhelmed with hopelessness and erosion of self worth," and feel "incessant subtle anger over being unable to make fundamental and critical life choices."

These are all symptoms of depression, anti-social compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, the inmates claim.

Government lawyers tried to have the claim thrown out last month in federal court, but Judge Robert Hughes, while quoting ancient Greek philosophers, stayed it for six months.

"Here we see expressions of anger, hopelessness, diminished capacity and losing control. One is reminded of a quotation ascribed to Gautama Buddha, 'Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.' Similarly, one can cite Greeks such as Sophocles and Seneca, 'Whom god wishes to destroy, he first makes mad'," wrote Hughes.

"The court can clearly grasp that the plaintiffs are unhappy to the point of frustration, distraction and despair, with the circumstances of their imprisonment. Whether this is a normal and expected consequence of that imprisonment or not clear."

The other plaintiffs include Christopher Brazeau, who is serving time for a series of home invasions and Bradley Rogers, who stabbed a fellow inmate 12 times.

Ernest Meigs sexually assaulted multiple women at gunpoint, including his ex-girlfriend, whom he abducted for 28 hours and raped repeatedly.

Finally, there's Troy Burton, an armed bank robber convicted of uttering death threats and possession of stolen property.

The judge gave them six months to lawyer up and explain "the who, what, when and where relevant events leading to the complaint."

He also said they "should calmly act in good faith and follow appropriate mediation and grievance procedures before seeking the assistance of the court."


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