January 26, 2015
The Honourable Yasir Naqvi,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
George Drew Building,
25 Grosvenor Street,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6
I’ve been following the Toronto Star’s Amy Dempsey’s work over the last number of weeks on the use of segregation in Ontario’s jails, and in particular at the new Toronto South Detention Centre. The one persistent question I would have in your position as this sorry tale unfolds is, how is it possible that this could be allowed to happen? But then, I’m able to see from your ministry’s response to the media that comments such as the health of inmates and staff is a “top priority”, or that inmates continue to receive the medical care they require in population or in segregation, is only fodder for public consumption.
If you were genuinely concerned about jail operations, you might imitate television’s “Undercover Boss”. I doubt though you’d find one person in your professional circle who would recommend this course. You’d have to be a very courageous politician to take that step.
The federal prison system is one of my specialty areas of activism and advocacy, but I was persuaded to look at Ontario’s provincial jails over a number of months in 2008 and 2009. What I found led me to write a series of questions “To Ontario’s Provincial Jail Superintendents”, a copy of which I’ve attached.
I suspect not a whole lot has changed over the years.
Charles H. Klassen
TO ONTARIO’S PROVINCIAL JAIL SUPERINTENDENTS
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN BEATEN BY GUARDS IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN INTENTIONALLY PUT IN SITUATIONS WHERE THEY WILL BE BEATEN BY OTHER INMATES IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN VERBALLY OR PHYSICALLY HARASSED WITH REMARKS BY STAFF, SUCH AS, “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING INMATES”, “I HATE INMATES”, “WHO DO I OWE A BEATING TO TODAY”, OR BACKHANDED/SLAPPED BY STAFF, IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO IMPLIED OR OVERT RACIAL SLURS, OR SINGLED OUT FOR HARSH TREATMENT BECAUSE OF RACE, IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN DENIED A SHOWER AND A HOT MEAL ON COURT DAYS IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN DEPRIVED OF CLOTHING AND/OR FOOD AND/OR BEDDING AND/OR HYGIENE PRODUCTS, OR PLACED IN SEGREGATION FOR NO SPECIFIED OR VERIFIABLE REASON, IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN THE THIRD OR FOURTH OCCUPANT IN A CELL IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE HAD THEIR CANTEEN ORDERS DESTROYED BY STAFF IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN DENIED THE USE OF A TELEPHONE, PREVENTED FROM CONTACTING THEIR LAWYERS, OR THE ONTARIO OMBUDSMAN, IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN DEPRIVED OF PAPER AND/OR PENCILS TO PREVENT THE FILING OF INSTITUTIONAL FORMS SUCH AS AN “INMATE STATEMENT FORM” IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE BEEN DENIED PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS OR MEDICAL ATTENTION OR TOLD THAT MEDICATION IS A PRIVILEGE AND NOT A RIGHT IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INFRACTIONS OF POLICY, PROCEDURE AND THE LAW HAVE JAIL CHAPLAINS WITNESSED IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK, BUT CAN’T DO THEIR WORK UNLESS THEY KEEP THEIR EYES, THEIR EARS, AND THEIR MOUTHS SHUT?
HAVE JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS EACH HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO WORSHIP IN COMMUNITY IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY INMATES HAVE RECEIVED “PACKAGES” THROUGH THE COLLABORATION OF JAIL STAFF IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MANY STAFF MEMBERS ARE NOT WEARING A CORRECTIONAL SERVICE ISSUED IDENTIFICATION TAG WHILE ON DUTY, OR WEARING A CORRECTIONAL SERVICE ISSUED IDENTIFICATION TAG IMPROPERLY, IN YOUR INSTITUTION THIS WEEK?
HOW MAY LOCKDOWNS HAVE OCCURRED IN YOUR INSTITUTION IN THE LAST MONTH BECAUSE OF STAFF SHORTAGES OR EXTENDED STAFF BREAKS, AND HOW MANY VISIT DAYS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED BECAUSE OF STAFF SHORTAGES, PARTICULARLY ON WEEKENDS?
WHY AREN’T RECORDS KEPT OF LOCKDOWNS AND CANCELLED VISITS IN YOUR INSTITUTIONS?
3 thoughts on “Ontario’s Provincial Jails – A Comment”
Extremely well said.
Way to go Charles! Everyone knows you’re right but could anyone expect a federal or provincial minister to act on any corruption considering how irresponsible our representative are on all levels of government. As I’ve stated before, our local city politicians enter the scene naively believing they can make a difference. In a short time they learn they have to play the game our political and provincial clowns have learned to play while supposedly representing us.
We need a new system of government that guarantees lack of corruption and true representation. Now isn’t that a naive statement if ever there was one. You’d need one person monitoring every politician and someone else monitoring him. I guess it wouldn’t take long for the greasing of palms occurred.
Just read the Amy Dempsey article from the 23rd January 2015 The Star (most excellent) and found myself astounded at the inconceivable lack of humanity that authorities show to inmates in the 21st century. Keep up the good fight. We the citizens DEMAND it.