Four of the 15 inmates accused of viciously beating another inmate at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility have had their request to move out of a highly restricted unit of the jail turned down by a judge.
Andriko Crawley, Kaz Cox, Jacob Lilly and Sophon Sek acted as their own lawyers on Friday at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax as they argued their habeas corpus application to secure their release from detention in a unit called West 4.
They said their detention in a reintegration unit with intensive direct supervision has deprived them of their liberty because they've been confined to their cells for between 22 and 24 hours a day.
They said it severely limits their time to do things like call their families, contact their lawyers, get exercise and enough food.
Crawley told the court it was essentially the same as being in solitary confinement.
How the 4 ended up in West 4
The four accused have been in the unit ever since the brutal beating and stabbing of a 46-year-old inmate on Dec. 2, 2019, except for Cox, who was recently moved to a close confinement unit following the discovery of contraband in his cell.
The attack happened in North 3, a general population unit, where at least 15 inmates formed a human wall to stop guards from getting to the victim of the attack.
The four argued they should be returned to the general population unit, or their hours outside their West 4 cells should be increased.
Guards fear for their safety
Under questioning by the four inmates Friday, Bradley Ross, one of the jail's deputy superintendents, defended the almost 24-hour-a-day lockdown for the inmates in West 4 who present "a lot of security issues."
He said the restrictions on their movements were put in place, in part, because of the threat to jail guards or other inmates.
In particular, Ross told Crawley his alleged direct involvement "in a very serious assault where a guy almost lost his life" was a "very high determining factor for us not to put you back in an open range for the safety of everyone involved."
Ross said the attack has led to a serious staff shortage. He said around 18 staff members are calling in sick or refusing to work each day under occupational health and safety rules because of the security risk they feel from being short-staffed or from the inmates themselves.
He said to reduce the risk, other inmates allegedly involved in the attack have been moved to other jails in the province, while several remain in the general population.
The staff shortage is affecting other areas of the institution. In North 3, inmates are allowed out of their cells for up to six hours, instead of 11.
Ross told the court the jail is working on increasing the hours inmates are allowed outside the cell.
The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union has also publicly raised staff concerns.
Based on the staff shortage, Justice Darlene Jamieson ruled it was lawful and reasonable for the inmates to be housed in West 4.
Jamieson said she appreciated "the frustration and concern" expressed by the inmates. She hoped the "rotational schedule" would return to normal.
New details about attack
More details about the attack also surfaced on Friday. Crawley is accused of being involved in the actual assault, while Cox is accused of helping to plan it. He was also allegedly part of the human barricade, along with Lilly and Sek.
All four men remain in custody and several have court appearances next week.
The 15 inmates are each facing six charges, including attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and aggravated assault.
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