William Head Institution. (Black Press Media file photo)

William Head Institution. (Black Press Media file photo)

Metchosin prison reclassified nine offenders to medium security after July escape

New security measures, notification procedures in place at William Head Institution

A review of William Head Institution, sparked by a prison escape, led to the reclassification of nine offenders to medium security as well as the addition of other safety measures.

In the early evening of July 7, 2019, James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage walked out of the low-security prison in Metchosin. A court proceeding that took place almost three months later revealed the pair took advantage of low tide and made the “spontaneous decision” to escape.

Busch was serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and had previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody. Armitage was serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

Their disappearance sparked a manhunt by West Shore RCMP and the public wasn’t notified about the escape until nearly 12 hours later via social media posts. The escapees were found and arrested on July 9, 2019 after commenting on a off-duty RCMP officer’s dog out for a walk.

READ ALSO: William Head prison escapees charged in homicide of Metchosin man

Nearly one year later, both inmates have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Martin Payne, 60, who lived near the prison and was found dead in his home on July 12, 2019.

In September, court heard that a Correctional Services Canada (CSC) analysis deemed Armitage fit for a medium-security institution but that an override was recommended and he was moved to William Head in April 2018. In a sentencing decision, provincial court Judge Roger Cutler said Armitage had escaped in 2016 and that he was “perplexed” as to why Armitage was serving his sentence at a minimum-security institution.

An internal CSC report was provided by the Crown to Cutler who said the override was recommended because Armitage made positive efforts and progress in rehabilitation. His case management team did not believe he posed risk of escape, Cutler said.

After the escape, Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said the District was in communication with the prison and that a number of changes were made but that he wants to see rules in place so receiving wardens can say no to overrides.

“Let’s face it, it’s a federal institution and we don’t have any real sanction to get our way but that’s going to be our position,” Ranns said. “We won’t be satisfied until that happens. We want to let our local guys make the decision and we don’t want this happening again.”

READ ALSO: Metchosin mayor wants changes to prison-transfer system after alleged murder by escapees

According to an email from Correctional Services Canada to Black Press Media, a security-level review of all minimum security inmates under its supervision was conducted following the July escapes. The review looked at how CSC determines if an offender should be at the minimum-security level.

“During the review, a total of fourteen offenders were reclassified from minimum to medium security across the country,” CSC said. “Of those, in addition to the two escapees, seven were reclassified from William Head Institution.”

The other reclassifications were from Mission Institution, Kwikwexwelhp Healing Village, Regional Treatment Centre and two from the Federal Training Centre.

As for formal counts throughout the day, CSC said William Head was always required to conduct four counts but a fifth has been added. Inmates are required to return to their houses by 10:30 p.m. each night instead of 11 p.m.

There is also a process for immediate notification to local officials as soon as there is any indication of a potential escape, with follow-ups to confirm the escape.

“CSC conducted a full review of its national policy on media relations to ensure our communications activities are timely, transparent and responsive,” CSC said, noting a process to ensure timely public notification following escapes is in place. “As soon as an escape is confirmed, CSC follows a two-tiered approach to get information out quickly, using both social media and by issuing a news release to media.”

William Head has also updated its notification procedures for escapes after consulting with community stakeholders, CSC said. The procedures include timely and comprehensive notification to police, community partners and media.

READ ALSO: Sc’ianew First Nation chief calls for closure of Metchosin prison

While some community members, such as Sc’ianew First Nation (Beecher Bay) Chief Councillor Russ Chipps, are calling for the prison to close following the most recent escape, CSC said it will continue conversations with the public about how to address community concerns while ensuring its mandate of appropriately managing offenders and supporting their rehabilitation is met.

“William Head Institution is proud to be an integral part of the Metchosin and surrounding community,” CSC said. “Our staff live and work here, and CSC deeply appreciates the support we receive from the community.”

-With files from The Canadian Press

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Metchosinmurderprison

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Residents within the coverage area of Sidney-North Saanich RCMP will have to call Central Saanich Police Services at (250) 652-4441 for non-emergency calls for parts of Tuesday, Jan. 26. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney/North Saanich RCMP dials up police in Central Saanich for help

Non-emergency outage expected to last through the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 26

(Black Press Media file photo)
Court-registered sex offender arrested for breach of parole in Langford

Cameron Ratelle returned to correctional facility after female youth approached at bus stop

Marc Porpaczy said he’s glad he delayed his daily walk with his dog, Juno, after a car crashed just outside his driveway just before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash highlights need for sidewalks, say Colwood residents

‘The residents have gone from frustrated to angry’

(Black Press Media file photo)
VicPD arrest man at gunpoint after firearm call

Man faces charges for breaching condition not to possess replica firearms

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth in police custody after kitchen knife call

A knife was recovered during the arrest, no injuries reported

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read