Editorial: Something fishy here about inmate letters

Editorial: Something fishy here about inmate letters


It’s a little suspicious when a prisoner shares accolades of the prison that’s holding them captive. 

Let alone twice in one week.

Earlier this month I contacted BC Corrections in regards to our story in this week’s Chronicle – I explained that I was writing about allegations of mistreatment at the OCC.

A few days later, the Chronicle received a letter from OCC inmate Mike Harfman.

“The food is second to none, the guards (although new) actually seem to care,” reads his letter. “I find (the OCC) to be above average.”

Right on. 

Shortly after that, editor Lyonel Doherty contacted the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), asking how a creepy letter written from behind bars by the notorious Ronald Teneycke went under their noses and managed to reach the home of his victim. A staffer with CSC said she needed an extension until Tuesday to come up with an answer. When she finally responded on Wednesday – well after the paper went to press – her lousy explanation read, “CSC has the authority to intercept inmate communications when it believes on reasonable grounds that the safety of the public or of the institution will be jeopardized.” 

Okay. We already knew the government has the ability to prevent jailbirds from mailing their victims. Our question is why wasn’t Teneycke’s letter intercepted? 

Most government staffers respond to inquiries with vague jargon – rather than anything meaningful or specific. Journalists are very accustomed to it. But it’s hard to understand what took a professional communicator an extra two days to dodge a question.

For anybody who missed last week’s front-page story – Teneycke’s half-hearted, narcissistic, apologetic Christmas card was presumably screened and approved before it was sent to the man who he shot and robbed. And we have no way of holding anybody to account. 

My guess is that the letter was able to reach its destination because of an honest mistake by a staffer with CSC. Human error happens all the time and it’s easy to forgive.

But this shouldn’t be a mystery. Privacy concerns are a weak excuse for why we can’t get answers about a breach in privacy. The lack of transparency from our public institutions makes it difficult to have complete faith in the system. 

A day after we received that garbage response from the CSC, we happened to get another glowing review from another inmate.

“My name is Jeremy Royer and I am at the fine jail of the Oliver correctional facility. This is one of the best jails I have ever been in.”

Something’s fishy. 

What would motivate a prisoner to defend and compliment the cage they’re confined to? And why did that happen two times while we were poking our noses around?

So here’s another thumbs down to our “injustice system” that continues to allow criminals to run the show while forgetting all about the victims. 


Dan Walton
Oliver Chronicle