Gangster wins fight with prison

'Moved from minimum security unfairly,' says judge

A Kamloops gangster serving time for drug crimes has won a fight with Corrections Canada, which moved him from a minimum-security jail after rumours he was trafficking steroids and a synthetic drug.

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Jayme Russell was unlawfully transferred to the segregation unit of Mountain Institution after he was deemed to be part of the "institutional drug subculture" at minimum-security Ferndale.

Russell's lawyer argued the transfer contravened Russell's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Russell was found guilty after a 2009 trial and sentenced to seven years in jail for drug trafficking in a sting set up by RCMP. He admitted membership to the Independent Soldiers during the trial.

The judgment was upheld in 2001, after he appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

In October last year, Russell received a letter from the Correctional Service of Canada, which addressed his security classification. The letter set out allegations that he was bringing in and distributing steroids and GHB - the so-called date rape drug that acts as an alcohol-like depressant.

Justice Mark McEwan outlined the facts, including that correctional officers at Ferndale searched a house where Russell and two other inmates were living.

Inside the false bottom of a drawer, they found two cell phones, iPods, 11 vials of steroids, hypodermic kits, 25 pills and pornographic CDs.

The unit was an "intensive support unit" where offenders had to sign an agreement, including abstinence from drugs.

"Information indicated several inmates are using steroids within the population," said the prison documentation quoted in the ruling. "Inmates are also using the 'date rape drug' and walk around with it in cups; they have it with alcohol."

Russell admitted only to using GHB.

McEwan said prison documentation referred to Russell's status as an importer and trafficker within the prison, but evidence was "generalized hearsay."

"I have concluded the applicant must be released from his placement in medium security and reassessed," McEwan said.

Prison officials did not fully disclose to Russell all the information it needed to reclassify him, McEwan said.

"Simply laying out several sources of suspicion and stating a conclusion without demonstrating how the institution knits them together will not normally justify a transfer," he wrote.

McEwan added he has no view of where Russell should be placed after a "fair hearing" by the correctional service.

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