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The Case of Ralph Cochrane

Ralph Cochrane was transferred from the British Columbia Penitentiary to Dorchester Penitentiary shortly after a prison disturbance in October 1973.49 Just prior to his transfer Cochrane had spoken to two members of parliament who had come to the prison at the request of the inmate committee. The assistant director of security, Mr Leech, gave evidence at the trial that he suspected Cochrane had some influence in the institution and that it was in the interest of good order for him to be removed at a time of disturbance and unrest. He was transferred back to the British Columbia Penitentiary in January 1974 and was immediately placed in SCU under section 2.30(1a). Under cross-examination, Mr Leech conceded that Cochrane was placed in SCU at that time because Mr Leech 'could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cochrane was not involved in the original disturbance.'50 Cochrane remained in dissociation for three months. He was put into dissociation again in July 1974 following his escape from the penitentiary in a refrigerated truck. The director, Mr Cernetic, gave evidence that although he had told Cochrane that he would remain in SCU pending the outcome of his charges of escape, the real' reason he had placed Cochrane in solitary confinement was to protect him from penitentiary staff who had been acutely embarrassed by the manner of his escape. Mr Cernetic stated that he felt that after Cochrane's trial and conviction there would be no reason for the staff to be angry with Cochrane. However, if we accept the protection of Cochrane as a legitimate purpose, placing him in SCU seems the least likely way to assure that protection, given that in SCU the guards would be able to vent their resentment free from the scrutiny of the rest of the population and with relative immunity from censure. This rationale for detention would also lead to the logical conclusion that, had Cochrane been acquitted of the escape, Mr Cernetic would have been forced to keep him in SCU, because Cochrane would certainly have been exposed to harassment on his return to the population by guards who would have felt that he had not received his just deserts.

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