A Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre prisoner had “lost hope” behind bars when he attempted suicide by swallowing jail-issued razor blades on four occasions, a judge has been told.
Jason Harden was granted bail in B.C. Supreme Court following a day-long hearing on Sept. 4, during which allegations about mistreatment by corrections officials were levelled by a defence lawyer.
Harden, 52, had been in jail for 15 months before his release. A chronic prohibited driver with 14 convictions for driving while disqualified, he is awaiting trial for separate driving allegations in Kamloops and 100 Mile House.
Harden has been disabled since a motorcycle crash in May 2019. He was fleeing police in Valleyview, court heard, when he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed, suffering a serious leg injury. He now requires the use of a wheelchair. He has also had multiple brain injuries.
Harden was arrested in downtown Kamloops on June 10, 2019, after an RCMP constable spotted him behind the wheel of a van near the 7-Eleven store at Seymour Street and Fifth Avenue — weeks after his debilitating leg injury.
In court, defence lawyer George Wool said Harden had been mistreated by corrections staff at KRCC in the 15 months since his arrest.
Wool said Harden has had four surgeries to remove razor blades he has swallowed while attempting suicide, alleging prison officials were negligent in not stopping him.
Wool claimed jail staff have at times denied Harden his wheelchair, forcing him to crawl on the ground to get around the facility.
“There have now been four surgeries that have been conducted on him [to remove razor blades]. I know that it’s unlawful to assist in suicide,” Wool said.
“Surgery is always serious. This person has been in custody. It’s not reasonable to subject someone to this kind of internal treatment, where he thinks that he’s lost hope and he tries to commit suicide. That’s serious.”
Wool said Kamloops RCMP is aware of the allegations of mistreatment of Harden by KRCC staff.
KTW has reviewed internal KRCC documents detailing Harden’s various suicide attempts. The documents confirm he has had multiple razor blades removed from his stomach during surgeries.
The documents also paint Harden as a problematic and argumentative prisoner.
In court, Wool said Harden’s temper flares when he is frustrated, due to his brain injuries.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves called the decision to grant Harden bail “a close call,” but ultimately ruled in his favour.
Groves noted the seriousness of Wool’s allegations regarding KRCC.
“If anything resembling what has been alleged has happened, that is concerning,” he said.
Harden’s bail conditions will require him to stay with a friend in Clearwater and follow a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.
Harden is slated to return to court on Sept. 14 for trial on one of his outstanding driving allegations.