Charges laid in stabbing death during 2016 riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary

PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. — Three men have been charged with murder in the death of a fellow inmate during a riot that caused $3.5 million in damage at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert.

Staff found Jason Bird unresponsive in the prison’s medium-security unit on Dec. 14, 2016, after a major disturbance.

Bird, who was 43, was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

RCMP say the three prisoners are charged with second-degree murder.

Police say the trio also faces charges of attempted murder in an assault against a 31-year-old inmate who was attacked during the riot.

At least eight inmates were hospitalized for their injuries, while 14 others were charged with various counts related to participating in a riot.

Kelfert Wayne Watetch, 28; Landon Bryce McKay, 21; and Brandon Wyatt Burns, 23, appeared in Prince Albert provincial court on Monday.

Police said the investigation remains open and they expect to lay more charges.

A Correctional Service Canada report released in March said a walkout by prisoners working in the kitchen could have been the catalyst for the riot at the penitentiary, which has minimum-, medium- and maximum-security units.

The final report said a number of issues were already brewing before the violence erupted.

The National Board of Investigation found that prisoners were discontent over issues that included work- and food-related concerns and changes in prison management.

The report said after the kitchen walkouts, other inmates refused to go to work and prisoners on some cell ranges refused to lock up, which escalated the riot.

Inmates set fires, broke windows, smashed walls and blocked doors with fridges, washers and dryers.

The report said inmates in one area destroyed government property, barricaded range barriers, covered their faces and armed themselves with weapons and shields.

Other prisoners reported that once the disturbance began, they feared for their safety if they didn’t participate, which amplified the situation.

The violence lasted for about six hours before it was quelled by an emergency response team.

Ivan Zinger, Canada’s correctional ombudsman, released a report last fall which said the trouble was likely to have been sparked by disputes over small prison cells and food quality and quantity.

He called for an external audit of food services as well as for the reinstatement of a dispute resolution pilot program.

“Current research suggests that a lot must go wrong, and for quite some time, before a prison erupts in violence,” Zinger wrote in his report.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Updated: SUV smashes through fences and deck in Anders

Driver taken to hospital after SUV veered off 30th Avenue into Anders

Art on Red Deer billboard a reminder of aboriginal women’s strength

Joane Cardinal-Schubert’s image is part of Resilience Project, shown from coast to coast

Red Deer’s new ‘equity co-ordinator’ will promote tolerance

Andrea Lacoursiere was hired by city with Alberta Human Rights funding

More bridge work this summer in Red Deer’s Coronation Park

The park’s north bridge is being rebuilt to ensure safety

Man badly injured in off-road vehicle collision on Saturday

Incident happened in Mountain View County about 10:50 p.m.

CFIA inspects after video shows pigs crammed into B.C. transport truck

The video shows pigs piled on top of one another in a transport truck on a “sweltering” hot day last week

Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber falls to Bryce Harper in Home Run Derby final

WASHINGTON — Nationals Park was eerily quiet late Monday when Kyle Schwarber… Continue reading

Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

HONOLULU — An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent… Continue reading

Banff holds blessing ceremony with Indigenous elders before letting bison roam

BANFF, Alta. — Several Indigenous elders were flown by helicopter into the… Continue reading

Research expedition looks at unseen depths of Labrador Sea ecosystem

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Last summer, a team of scientists returned from… Continue reading

Protesters camped outside Saskatchewan legislature taking province to court

REGINA — Protesters camped outside the Saskatchewan legislature say they are taking… Continue reading

British PM accepts key amendments from hardline Brexiteers

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday accepted amendments to… Continue reading

‘City of icebergs:’ Study says 100s of Arctic glaciers shrinking, disappearing

The statistics in her recently published paper say it all: hundreds of… Continue reading

U.S. hits back with WTO challenge against Canada’s retaliatory tariffs

OTTAWA — The United States fired back Monday at the Canadian government’s… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month