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Deaths in Ontario jails are on the rise: coroner

by News Desk
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A new report released by Ontario’s chief coroner’s office suggests that the number of deaths among those incarcerated has risen “dramatically” in recent years, citing a lack of access to basic human rights. It paints a picture of a criminal justice system struggling with

Produced by an expert panel of Ontario coroners on custodial deaths, the report examines inmate non-homicidal deaths from 2014 to 2021.

19 people died in 2014, 25 in 2019 and 46 in 2021. The leading causes of death are accidental overdose, suicide, and “natural death”. Including homicide deaths, he has 192 inmate deaths in state facilities over the past eight years.

Commission members said in their opening statement that “too many deaths have occurred in state correctional facility custody.” […] There is every reason to hope that a person who can control so many aspects of life will at least protect them from harm and ill health. “

However, the report said the system should provide adequate and up-to-date medical care, ensure that corrections officers receive comprehensive training in emergency medicine, mental health, trauma and violence-based practices, and support It suggests that you are struggling to meet basic promises such as delivering a program. to inmates.

“Almost all lives lost in our sample, with very rare exceptions, can be considered preventable deaths.

Ultimately, the commission says the report reveals “a lot” about a criminal justice system struggling to deliver on its basic promises. […], and a reality in custody that is becoming increasingly ineffective and unsafe in its current state. “

“Photographs range from opaque to stunningly transparent. Solutions range from simple to frustratingly complex. The need for action is just as compelling and urgent.” said in the report.

Dr. Jerry Flores, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who has studied incarcerated people for more than a decade, told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday that while the numbers may not seem high at first, the rising trend is alarming. said to be the reason.

“The more concerning question is why are they on the rise,” Flores said. “Almost 40% of these deaths are attributed to acute drug toxicity, which I think points to some bigger problems.”

But Flores says illicit drugs are being brought into Ontario’s prisons, for better or worse.

“I think the next step is to really understand how we can stop these deaths, and that the way to stop some of these deaths is by ensuring quality access to health care. he said.

In its report, the commission made 18 recommendations on how to improve inmate well-being and reduce the number of deaths in correctional facilities. This includes establishing new quality standards for corrective health services in line with the best practices of relevant colleges. organization.

“It’s starting to violate human rights in order to keep parts of the population inaccessible to health care,” Flores said. “How can we ensure that all people in prison have access to the quality medical care guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?”

The Commission’s recommendations go beyond improving correctional health services, including moving away from maximum security facilities where necessary, reducing the number of individuals detained in pretrial stages, and improving record keeping. but not limited to: and public transparency.

“Many of the facilities where these people are held are designed as maximum security facilities — very highly structured, highly monitored locations,” Flores said. “But most of Canada’s inmates are there for non-violent drug-related crimes, so many of these facilities are no longer set up for that.”

When asked for comment, the Attorney General’s Office, which oversees the operations of Ontario’s correctional facilities, thanked the chief coroner and the panel for the insights provided in the report, stating, We will look into the facility.” Respond to the chief medical examiner’s request within six months as requested.”

“We must do everything possible to prevent custodial deaths and to have better, safer lives in Ontario,” Department spokesman Andrew Morrison said in an email to CTV News Toronto. , is focused on building a healthier correction system.

“People who died in custody know that they are spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, brothers and friends, important to everyone they loved and were loved.

Morrison said much work is already underway to address the issues identified in the report, but the government will improve training of frontline staff and make strategic investments in infrastructure, staffing and health care. He said he would continue to invest.

Flores, meanwhile, said all levels of government need to increase funding and access to detention facilities, along with funding research on incarcerated people.

“There are many able-bodied individuals in various sociology and criminology departments across Canada who can help find evidence-based solutions to these problems,” he said.

“So I think we need to continue to do all we can to make these spaces more accessible and more open, and continue to lead research into some of the root causes of what is happening.”

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