Former GVI inmate speaks about experience behind bars
When allegations surfaced last fall that a guard at Grand Valley Institution for Women was involved in a drugs-for-sex exchange, Jamie Rushton knew he had to do something.
Fearing for the safety of his wife and other prisoners held in the Kitchener facility, Rushton started a one-man protest outside the prison.
The police investigation into the claims eventually ended, as did Rushton’s protest, bur he says retribution against their family was just beginning.
“As soon as the sign went up, I was like the kid being bullied by the big kids in the schoolyard, except there’s nobody to go complain to,” he tells CTV.
Rushton’s wife, Joanna Rushton, spent six months at Grand Valley for a drug-related conviction, spending time in both medium and minimum security areas.
That sentence recently came to an end, allowing her to return to her hometown of Brantford and reunite with Jamie and their now-one-year-old son, Sam.
“I’ve definitely learned my lesson, and I think I’ve got a bright future,” she says.
Despite being out of prison, Rushton remains on parole, spending most of her time at a halfway house.
She needs special permission to return home, but is able to have Sam at the halfway house.
“Nothing’s going to be as good as home, but for what it is, it’s good,” she says.
Joanna describes living conditions inside the prison as cramped but decent, and says she benefited from rehabilitation programs, including working at the on-site textile factory for a boss she describes as “awesome”.
Less positive is how she feels about her treatment after Jamie’s protest.
Before starting his protest, Jamie had paid one visit to Joanna at Grand Valley.
After the protest, Jamie says it was months before he was allowed back for a second visit – and when he was granted visiting rights, he says, a security guard recognized him as the protestor and refused him entry.
In the meantime, Joanna says the first she heard of the protest was after prison staff called her for a meeting.
“They were going on about how this was going to affect my parole potentially … how it’s going to make visitation here hard and it’s going to maybe limit my visitations with my son,” she says.
The Correctional Service of Canada would not speak to Rushton’s case specifically at the time, but did tell CTV in a statement that “the lawful actions of private citizens outside an institution would not be used by CSC as grounds to deny visitation.”
CTV News attempted to interview Rushton while she was incarcerated for a special series on life at Grand Valley. That request, along with all other requests to interview current inmates, was denied.
Although inmates are supposed to be provided with written notification of denied media interview requests from CSC, Rushton says she only learned of CTV’s request when her husband told her.
CSC says it expects its employees to act “according to the highest legal and ethical standards” but cannot comment on any specific case due to privacy concerns.
Rushton says she’s now in the process of looking for a new job. Her parole is scheduled to end in 2014.