Hunger striker hospitalized
YCC faces second starvation protest

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 25/97) - Imprisoned former hunger striker Gordon Maher is at it again along with two other inmates at the territorial jail.

He's been joined by Michael and Hank Lafferty, both of whom are serving time in the Yellowknife Correctional Centre for aggravated assault. Michael stabbed a person.

Yesterday Michael was taken to hospital because "I was losing my mind they say" for not drinking any water or taking food.

Breaking a pact with the other two to start Monday at 9 p.m., Michael started his hunger strike on Sunday, which was a surprise.

Maher is behind bars for selling drugs and he was on a hunger strike earlier this month along with another inmate, who dropped out early. Maher lasted a week before eating.

In the past and present hunger strike, inmates were complaining their rights were being violated.

At the end of his first hunger strike, Maher said the ministry was investigating his complaints, but Warden Ron Near said no deals were made.

Michael Lafferty got into trouble in jail for "accidentally poking a guy in the eye."

Now he is protesting against plans to send him to a southern jail today because he has a wife and five children in Yellowknife.

He says his wife Darlene can't handle what is happening.

"I just want to be left alone," he said. "I don't bother nobody. I just want to do my little time. That's all I want."

However, in June, the Crown is appealing his sentence for aggravated assault. He is due for release in July.

Vitalie Lafferty, mother of the two brothers, said "I know what kind of past they had, now they have family and kids," Lafferty said.

"They are trying to change their lives and seeing counsellors. Mike has been going to counselling with his wife (they have five children and been married a year).

"I'm really worried. Hank has a little girl eight months old. He's trying to change his life but they are not going to change overnight," Lafferty said.

"They should help native people when they are trying to change. It is cruel putting them in 24 hours a day lockup."

However, Midge Ravensdale, director of corrections, said that people talk to inmates to find out what their concerns are.

She said that the inmates can appeal any administrative decision -- translate that as punishment for jail rule infractions or for getting into other troubles -- and sometimes the appeals are upheld.

If changes to the system need to be made after an appeal has been upheld "we do that, that's the purpose of the appeal process," Ravensdale said.

If inmates have specific complaints then someone from the ministry goes in to clarify what the complaints are, she said. "If changes are needed, we do that."

In other cases where it is found that the policy or punishment was proper, then the inmates are advised of this fact.

Sometimes the policy is valid and sometimes the policy needs to be looked at, Ravensdale said.

Sometimes jail staff are doing things as they should be and the rules need to be reinforced, she said.