PRINCE ALBERT - The mother of an inmate at Pine Grove Correctional Centre for Women in Prince Albert is worried about her daughter’s well being.
Sharise Justice Sutherland-Kayseas’s mother - who goes by her spiritual name of Binesi Ogichidaa - said her daughter was being held in segregation, denied phone calls, and allegedly abused by guards. She said the abuse of her daughter is so bad that other inmates have started to speak out.
“Another girl (inmate) phoned in regards to my daughter, how they have her. It’s not good,” said Ogichidaa in a phone interview from Ontario on Oct. 11. “She was watching because they (inmates) knew Sharise got cut off from her phone calls.”
Ogichidaa said the guards put Sutherland-Kayseas into solitary confinement in segregation and told the other inmates not to talk to her when she was allowed out one hour a day.
“They degrade her, they demean her, they belittle her. They are very mean to her and it bothers the other inmates,” Ogichidaa said, struggling to talk as she cried. “It’s really disturbing the way they are treating my daughter.”
Her daughter is shackled at the wrist, waist and ankles when she comes out of solitary for one hour a day, said Ogichidaa
“My daughter is red-carded, considered dangerous, high security, so when she comes out for her phone calls she is shackled full body.”
Ogichidaa said the guards slammed her daughter’s face into the wall and onto the floor.
“She said, ‘Mom, they (guards) literally hate me and they let it be known.’”
Sutherland-Kayseas has been advocating for other inmates, vulnerable women at Pine Grove. Last year, she went on a hunger strike for several weeks to protest conditions at Pine Grove.
“She told me, ‘Mom, you know, I’m not worried about what happens to me because I’m used to it, but these other girls, I don’t know if they can handle it,” said Ogichidaa as she cried.
“She should be allowed to advocate for women. It’s horrible how they treat vulnerable women in there.”
Ogichidaa said an inmate who spoke out against the guards’ treatment of Sutherland-Kayseas was put in a rival gang unit as retaliation. She was attacked in that unit the night of Oct. 10.
“She got beat up really bad last night,” said Ogichidaa.
She said her daughter is also tossed into solitary if she shows emotions from her life-long trauma.
“You can’t show your emotions there. They say it is behavioural problems. She has been asking for counselling.”
Sutherland-Kayseas has been in Pine Grove for approximately two years. She is awaiting trial on two first-degree murder charges from two separate incidents in 2019.
Sutherland-Kayseas has been asking for access to counselling since being incarcerated but has been denied help.
“She needs spiritual counselling. She needs access to the sweat lodge at Pine Grove. She isn’t being given any counselling and the nurse is refusing to give her meds.”
Saskatchewan Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety was contacted for comment about the allegations that Sutherland-Kayseas was being mistreated by guards and that an inmate who stood up for her was put into a rival gang unit and beat up.
“The ministry does not speak to specifics regarding an individual offender’s placement or case management,” Margherita Vittorelli, Senior Media Relations Consultant told SASKTODAY.ca in an email on Oct. 13. “Corrections follows a number of policies and procedures that ensure the safety and security of offenders, staff and the public.
“Corrections determines the most suitable and safe placement for inmates based on individual evaluations of inmate security levels,” added Vittorelli. “Those recurring evaluations consider, among other factors, gang affiliation and whether an inmate is at risk of injury from other inmates because of their profile prior to incarceration.”
After SASKTODAY.ca contacted Saskatchewan Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety, Sutherland-Kayseas' phone calls were reinstated on Oct. 13 and she was released from solitary confinement on Oct. 15.
Indigenous women over-represented in prisons
Indigenous women now account for 42 per cent of women in federal custody, according to Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada in his 2020 annual report on prisons.
“My mother was in Pine Grove and she was a residential school survivor,” said Ogichidaa. “She told me stories about Pine Grove. It’s bad. If you’re Indigenous it’s bad.
“Being Indigenous in Saskatchewan is bad,” she added. “It’s a very racist province. You can kill a Native and get away with it.
Survivors of residential school
Ogichidaa is a survivor of residential school.
“It’s a wonder I survived but I came out (expletive) up and resorted to heroin.”
Her life was drugs, alcohol, crime, gangs, and violence, which resulted in her children suffering and she regrets she wasn’t a better parent.
“I was not the mother that I should have been as I was on drugs and into crime. I wasn’t on my healing path then. I was still going through the effects of Indian Residential School and I was a human trafficking survivor."
She said she wishes she knew then what she knows now.
“I’m on my healing path today despite the circumstances. I’m here for (my children). Sharise is studying Native history and she’s learning about Indian Residential Schools and its effects.”
As her daughter learns about the injustices done to her mother, her father, and grandparents in residential schools, her anger dissipates.
“She used to be so angry at me. She always tells me now, ‘Mom, I love you and I understand why things were the way they were for us. You and Dad were both Indian Residential School survivors.’ She even said, ‘I’m no longer a gang member. I dropped that bull****,” said Ogichidaa.
“I wish I could have realized then the effects of intergenerational, colonial trauma as a child, youth and young woman. I wish that someone had put out their hand and said ‘there’s more to life than this.’ Maybe my kids would have had a better life. Maybe Sharise would not be where she is today… her sister too. I just cry, wishing that what I know today I would have known back then and saved my girls.”