A man who was required to visit a notorious British Columbia prison as part of a “scared straight” program has been awarded $175,000 in damages for a sexual assault that happened during the tour.
The man, only identified by his initials in the judgment, was 14 in the late 1970s when he was placed on probation for breaking and entering.
The B.C. Supreme Court decision says as part of his probation he was required to take a tour of the now-closed Oakalla prison and was sexually assaulted after a corrections officer forced him into a cell with five inmates.
The man’s lawsuit named the British Columbia government and Roderic MacDougall, a former prison guard who was convicted for indecent and sexual assaults against prisoners.
Justice Jennifer Duncan ruled the sexual assault took place and the province is liable, but the plaintiff couldn’t establish that MacDougall was the officer who facilitated the attack.
She awarded the man, who is now 54 years old, $150,000 in damages and $25,000 for the cost of future care, plus his legal costs.
“The structure and operation of the youth tour program in 1978 left a great deal to be desired from a modern perspective, to put in mildly,” Duncan said in her ruling posted Wednesday.
“The officers were left to choose the inmates they felt were appropriate to interact with the youth” said the judge, who noted that the youth could have been exposed to inmates facing sex charges.
“The youth were subjected to catcalls and verbal abuse by inmates, but that seemed to depend on whether the youth appeared suitably chastened by the experience. The purpose of the program was, after all, to scare children into disavowing a life of crime.”
Several successful civil court lawsuits from other prisoners were filed against MacDougall.
The Canadian Press