Feds settle out-of-court with family of murdered inmate

The family of Mountain prison inmate who was strangled to death by his cellmate has reached an out-of-court settlement.

The family of Mountain prison inmate Jeremy Phillips, who was strangled to death by his cellmate, serial killer Michael Wayne MGray, reached an out-of-court settlement in May after filing a civil suit against the federal government.

But family lawyer Myer Rabin told The Progress last week he could not disclose the terms of the settlement because of a confidentiality clause.

“Hopefully, the process (of transferring maximum-security prison inmates to lower-security) will change,” he said, in light of the BC coroner’s inquest last week and an internal investigation by the Correctional Service of Canada.

Rabin said the family was “reasonably happy” with the five recommendations made by the inquest jury, but Phillips’ mother “knows she will never get her son back, and nothing will ever change that.”

He said Phillips’ father died while he was in jail, and Jeremy wanted to be released to take care of his mother by taking a job as a youth counsellor.

“He was planning on turning his life around,” Rabin said.

Phillips, 33, was strangled to death in his cell on Nov. 22, 2010, one week after McGray, 45, a self-proclaimed sociopath with an “urge” to kill, even while in prison, was transferred from Kent maximum-security in Agassiz to Phillips’ medium-security cell at Mountain Institution also in Agassiz.

Rabin said Mountain officials were “not prepared to change” a waiting list for single-cell accommodations for McGray, but instead double-bunked him with Phillips.

The jury is asking the CSC to authorize wardens to make exceptions to the wait list for single-cell accommodations in order to move a dangerous offender into them — and to make the change on a national level.

The jury also recommended that single-cell accommodation for all multiple killers become mandatory, “unless correctional service evidence and assessment determines that a shared accommodation is both safe and practical.”

McGray was assessed and approved for transfer, but Rabin said officials only took into consideration his behaviour in the past year, not the psychiatric reports and the inmate’s own prior statements about his urge to kill.

“They took his word, hook, line and sinker,” Rabin said. “All they did was look at how he was in the last year.”

A spokesperson for the CSC said a review of all five recommendations is underway.

Sara Parkes said in an email to The Progress that the CSC takes the death of an inmate “very seriously,” and that the CSC voluntarily took part in the inquest “to ensure that the issues were examined as thoroughly as possible.”

“While CSC has implemented significant changes to its operational procedures following the death of Mr. Phillips, CSC welcomes the recommendations the jury has offered,” she said.

But Parkes did not return a Progress call for a copy of the recommendations made in the internal investigation, and did not respond to the question of whether any disciplinary action was taken as a result of the CSC review.

Parkes also did not elaborate on what “significant changes” have been made by the CSC.

Gord Robertson, Pacific region president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, was also unable to describe what those changes might be, but said “a more streamlined process” to assess inmates for double-bunking is in the works, but “not yet finalized.”

He said correctional officers don’t always have the complete history of transferred inmates, and may not have known the risk posed by McGray.

He said correctional officers often end up relying more on what other inmates tell them about a transferred prisoner, “which could be completely untrue.”

So he welcomed the recommendation for all line staff to have access to all information about an inmate prior to a transfer, and the recommendations for better flashlight intensity and better ways to detect inmates’ body heat.

Phillips’ body was not discovered for some 12 hours after he was killed, according to McGray’s story, but correctional officers are required to check inmates every half hour at night.

Robertson said Phillips was killed on one of the coldest nights in November, and covered with blankets “it’s difficult to tell if an inmate is breathing in the middle of the night.”

But he said correctional officers welcome “anything that will help us do our job, and make sure inmates are alive and well.”

“Everybody wants to improve this, and make it safer for inmates and staff,” he said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

Just Posted

Sts’ailes drum making coming to Harrison Festival

The workshop has been happening for years, bringing Indigenous teachings to the festival

Transparency, dialogue key to UBC Dairy’s open house

The annual Agassiz event invites the public to come learn about dairy farming and research around it

Fraser-Cascade school district hosts by-election to fill void left by passing of Tom Hendrickson

Advance voting begins on July 17, with general voting on July 27

Big Chill a hot event in Langley

Flight Museum holds “ask the pilot panel” and demos flights for young pilots over the weekend

Search continues for missing elderly woman in Chilliwack

RCMP, Chilliwack Search and Rescue and community members combing area for Grace Baranyk

VIDEO: Agassiz remembers local officer at grave-marking ceremony

Montague White-Fraser had been buried in the Old Cemetery for 92 years without a headstone

UPDATE: Youth seen with gun at Nanaimo mall, suspect now in custody

Woodgrove Centre shut down during police incident

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Most Read