Innes jail ‘in­hu­mane,’ pris­oner says

‘Peo­ple are re­ally get­ting fed up’ with dis­gust­ing, in­sect-in­fested de­ten­tion cen­tre: in­mate

Ottawa Citizen - - City - BY GE­OFF NIXON

Con­di­tions at the Ot­tawaCar­leton De­ten­tion Cen­tre are “in­hu­mane,” says one in­mate, who is warn­ing that it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore ten­sions flare at the Innes Road fa­cil­ity.

Stéphane Bernier, 38, said in a phone in­ter­view yes­ter­day that in­mates are up­set with ev­ery­thing from the way they are be­ing treated by guards to the clean­li­ness of their liv­ing quar­ters. The de­ten­tion cen­tre holds peo­ple await­ing trial and pris­on­ers con­victed and sen­tenced to less than two years in jail. Mr. Bernier is serv­ing four months for a driv­ing of­fence.

“Peo­ple are re­ally get­ting fed up with it,” he said. “If things don’t start smarten­ing up, peo­ple are go­ing to get very up­set.”

In par­tic­u­lar, in­mates are frus­trated by a per­ceived poor stan­dard of house­keep­ing at the fa­cil­ity.

The vents are rusted and filled with lint, eat­ing ta­bles stink and there are “ants and spi­ders and creepy-crawlies” through­out the dorms, Mr. Bernier said.

“You’re in a dorm with 30 peo­ple, no win­dows open, peo­ple are fart­ing, you’re breath­ing in their farts, it’s just re­ally, re­ally in­hu­mane,” he said.

Even main­tain­ing ba­sic hy­giene is a prob­lem, Mr. Bernier said, as in­mates must hand in their used bars of soap be­fore be­ing given new sup­plies. Ear­lier this week, the jail ran out of soap for sev­eral days, he said.

“I shouldn’t have to come off the street and be clean and come into a jail and be dirty and get a lit­tle cut and have to worry about get­ting flesh-eat­ing dis­eases and stuff like that,” he said.

Andrew Nel­lis, an or­ga­nizer for the Ottawa Pan­han­dlers’ Union, re­cently spent five days in the fa­cil­ity. Mr. Nel­lis says the jail’s “abysmal” con­di­tions are poor enough that they have caught the eye of those in the le­gal sys­tem. He said he knows of at least one judge who last year was award­ing in­mates credit of three-to-one for time served in pre-trial cus­tody at Innes Road.

“Nor­mally the time you serve be­fore you’re ac­tu­ally con­victed counts dou­ble to­wards your sen­tence,” Mr. Nel­lis said yes­ter­day. “But be­cause con­di­tions there were so bad, there was a judge giv­ing triple time.”

In 2004, there were two cases doc­u­mented in the

Cit­i­zen where men con­victed of spousal abuse re­ceived triple­time credit be­cause of the con­di­tions at the jail.

Mark Er­tel, pres­i­dent of the Defence Coun­sel As­so­ci­a­tion of Ottawa, said Innes Road in­mates do not re­ceive three-forone credit as of­ten as they used to, but it hap­pens oc­ca­sion­ally be­cause of the “aw­ful” con­di­tions.

“The Court of Ap­peal has said that rather than call­ing ev­i­dence about gen­eral con­di­tions at the jail (to get the ex­tra credit), you have to prove spe­cific con­di­tions spe­cific to your client,” he said. “But it’s still good law, and there are still judges who do it, if the ap­pro­pri­ate proof is there.”

In ad­di­tion to the in­sect re­ports, he has heard clients com­plain about mice run­ning around the jail­house floors and in­mates sleep­ing three to a cell.

“It’s a joke,” he said. “In a city the size of Ottawa, that de­ten­tion cen­tre is a joke.”

Min­istry of Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices spokesman Stu­art McGet­rick said a deputy su­per­in­ten­dent at the Innes Road fa­cil­ity told him the is­sues of ventilation, dirty ta­bles and in­sect prob­lems had not been raised by in­mates dur­ing an in­spec­tion tour on Thurs­day.

He con­firmed that the jail had re­cently seen “a mi­nor in­ter­rup­tion in the soap sup­ply be­tween sup­ply days.”

The staff at the jail does its best to rec­tify any prob­lems, he said, to en­sure that in­mates are treated with dig­nity.

“Our goal is to treat our in­mates in a hu­mane man­ner,” Mr. McGet­rick said. “We’re not out there to pun­ish them just for be­ing in the in­sti­tu­tion.”

The Cit­i­zen was un­able to reach Ottawa-Car­leton De­ten­tion Cen­tre su­per­in­ten­dent As­fia Sul­tan for com­ment yes­ter­day.

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