“As many as 200,000 current and former Ontario inmates could be headed for a massive payday if allegations contained in a new lawsuit against the provincial government hold up in court.”

This is how Patrick White began his “Inmates file lockdown class-action suit” in the Tuesday, August 16th Globe and Mail. He later referenced in his article the May award of $85,000 in damages to two Maplehurst inmates for excessive lockdowns, calculating this worked out to $21,250 for every year these two men spent in custody. (See “Do your job…..or pay”, published June 19) He went on to suggest, “Scale that up to thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of inmates and the total payout could be colossal.”

Toronto-based Koskie Minsky LLP, one of Canada’s premier class-action law firms, added in its own announcement the day before, “The action alleges that endemic lockdowns arising from the Province of Ontario’s failure to properly staff its correctional institution facilities have caused and continue to cause tremendous physical and psychological damage to inmates across the Province.”

The action is open to almost all inmates who have spent time in an Ontario jail since 2002. That’s when judges first began awarding compensations in their sentencing decisions for the province’s practice of locking down ranges because of short staffing levels.

According to Jonathan Ptak, one of the lawyers involved, “We’re talking about an extremely large claim.”

The class action announced on August 15 excludes prisoners of Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (solely with respect to their incarceration at the facility), as a separate action was filed earlier on their behalf. A judge certified this suit on August 24, allowing it to go forward.

Koskie Minsky had already announced on August 11 the commencement of a class-action against the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario alleging human rights violations relating to the treatment of immigrant detainees in Ontario’s prisons. It accuses Canada Border Services Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services of negligence, breach of fiduciary duties and violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by holding immigrant detainees in Ontario jails.

Current and former prisoners are encouraged to visit or call 1-866-777-6339.

Class-actions have a history of taking a long time to reach a resolution, but the wait can be rewarding for the complainants.


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