…..they’re pretending not to hear us.
Mary Dwyer is the current manager of health care services at the Toronto South Detention Centre. She came to our attention when she testified in early February in an action by a TSDC inmate looking for redress from the lack of proper medical care in the institution, particularly during lockdowns which are rampant there.
The above is from “Jail health care? Ontario, challenge this!”, an April 10 posting underscoring neo-medieval conditions in parts of the operation of the province’s provincial jails. This entry fleshes out the story referenced on April 10 as one further example of violations of Ministry policy and best practices, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the United Nations’ “Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.”
Gregory Chaytor spent seven months in pre-trial custody in Toronto South awaiting the disposition of drug charges. He pleaded guilty to two offenses, but a sentencing application submitted by his lawyer Michael Leitold (lay-i-told) alleged that Chaytor was subject to “frequent and ever-increasing” lockdowns at Toronto South, amounting to “arbitrary administrative segregation.” Further, he contends he didn’t get appropriate medical or mental health care. As a result, he was seeking an enhanced credit of 1.75 days’ credit for each day served before trial, rather than the usual 1.5 days’ credit.
The sentencing phase began in December of 2015. The Toronto Star published Amy Dempsey’s print and on-line account of the February 5 appearance by Toronto South’s Michael MacLennan, security manager, and Mary Dwyer, the institution’s health care manager, at a pivotal court date in the process.
Ms. Dwyer testified that she had never seen the Star’s articles describing staff and inmate complaints about inadequate medical services, claiming, “I don’t read newspapers….which as you know are not accurate.” Mr. Leitold also asked her about several Ontario Court decisions in which judges criticized health care at the institution. “First time I’m hearing it,” was her response. Not only was her testimony considered surprising given the wide-spread coverage of problems at Toronto South, but Ontario’s Ombudsman had investigated dozens of health-care complaints at the jail and would have been in touch with her department.
Security manager Michael MacLennan conceded that lockdowns are much like solitary confinement, but he contested defence figures on their frequency. During his testimony, it was revealed that not all jail records available on lockdowns had been provided to the defence or the Crown. As a result, Ontario Court Justice Mary Hogan, criticizing the lack of complete information but reserving judgement of whether anyone was to blame, adjourned the hearing until a May date, the earliest available on the calendar, allowing the balance of the records to materialize.
With that, the story ended. No further news appeared in the media. I contacted Michael Leitold in early June for a clarification and resolution.
As it turned out, the Supreme Court of Canada had struck down one of the previous government’s ‘tough-on-crime’ provisions while the Chaytor matter was adjourned. This allowed the defence and the Crown to agree to a sentence of time served for the two offenses, and the judge further sentenced Chaytor to a $10 fine. The SCC decision rendered the application for a super-enhanced credit for adverse pre-trial conditions moot, and so the Court did not rule on the application.
But, according to Mike Leitold, “in passing judgement, the presiding Justice M. Hogan made clear her concern with the evidence she had heard to that point, and opined that she would have likely granted Mr. Chaytor’s application for the enhanced credit.”
It continues to confound that the judiciary frequently faults Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ operation of the province’s jails, while those we elect to ensure what is happening in those institutions does not happen appear oblivious to the issues raised every day by hundreds of inmates and their advocates.