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Posts Tagged ‘ministry of community safety and correctional services’

“Five years after Ontario vowed to curtail its use of solitary confinement, average inmate stays in segregation cells have grown longer, with one prisoner in Ottawa remaining in isolation for at least 835 days, according to newly released provincial data.

The statistical snapshot shows that solitary confinement, the prison practice of isolating inmates for 22 or more hours a day without meaningful human contact, remains a central component of provincial jail operations. It also raises questions about the commitment of the new government of Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford to pending legislation that would severely limit its use.

The most glaring figure comes from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, where government spreadsheets indicate a Muslim man with mental-health issues, between the ages of 35 and 39, was housed in solitary for at least 835 days. Little more is known about him. United Nations guidelines recommend 15 days as a limit for segregation placements to prevent lasting mental and physical harm. Earlier this year, the previous Liberal government passed legislation that would enshrine those 15-day caps, but it has yet to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor.” 

– Patrick White, “Length of solitary stays increasing in Ontario prisons, including 835 days for one inmate.The Globe and Mail, November 5, 2018.

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“In the days after her brother-in-law’s death inside the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, Tracy Sharp watched in disbelief as negative comments made by people who never met him started to pile up on social media.

“One less person on our tax payers [sic] dime,” read one.

“Thin the herd,” read another.

But one comment in particular stopped her cold: “Who cares,” wrote Kevin Hale, whose Facebook profile says he works for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

“Is this the kind of people that work there, treating them like animals?” she wondered.

“If these are the kind of people who are supposed to be in control and looking out for these guys, that doesn’t bode well.”

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the ministry would not say if it’s investigating Hale’s comments or if he will face any sort of reprimand because it does not comment on “human resources matters.”

“The personal opinions expressed by our employee do not reflect the values of our ministry nor of the vast majority of correctional staff,” wrote Brent Ross.

I care and so do the families of all of these other people who have died. – Tracy Sharp

Christopher “Johnny” Sharp died at the Barton Street jail Friday afternoon of a suspected drug overdose. His death comes just months after a marathon inquest into eight overdose deaths at the facility the produced 62 recommendations aimed at improving everything from security and health services to surveillance.

The ministry has six months to respond. In the meantime, inquests have also been announcedinto the deaths of two other HWDC inmates — Brennan Bowley and Ryan McKechnie.

Not just a mug shot

Beyond questions about how drugs continue to get into the jail and kill inmates, Sharp’s family is left struggling to understand why people would go out of their way to attack a hurting family trying to hold onto memories of the man they loved.

“Johnny isn’t just a mug shot and a rap sheet,” said Tracy. “He was a person and like a lot of addicts and people who get caught up in the system, he wasn’t always like this.”

Carol, Johnny’s mother, remembers the 53-year-old as a gentle boy with a mischievous sense of humour before addiction and 30 years spent bouncing between jails, prisons and halfway houses.

As a child he loved sports and art — later in life he became a tattoo artist who created his own complex designs.

Tracy knew Johnny for almost 15 years and said some of her her fondest memories are of him playing with her kids.

“He was just so sweet, I only know the sweet side to him. I don’t know that rap sheet Johnny."”

– Dan Taekema, “‘Who cares?’ asks corrections worker after inmate dies inside Hamilton jail.CBC News, September 14, 2018.

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