Ottawa jail in the top three for complaints, despite fewer inmates (Ottawa Citizen)
November 2, 2016
The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre remained among the three most complained about jails in Ontario, a dubious distinction it earned despite being the only jail in the top five that housed fewer than 1,000 inmates.
There were 394 complaints about the Ottawa jail to provincial ombudsman Paul Dubé during the 2015-16 fiscal year, the ombudsman said in his annual report released Wednesday. The good news was that the number of complaints has been trending slightly downward since 2013-14, when there were 416 complaints. It was also down slightly from the previous year, when the ombudsman’s office received 410 complaints.
The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre “has consistently been one of the most complained-about in the province,” said the ombudsman. The OCDC made the top three even though it has a capacity of 505 inmates, less than half that of the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, On., which had 647 complaints, and the Toronto South Detention Centre, which had 455 complaints.
The bulk of complaints from OCDC were about health care issues, but there were also 27 about segregation and 26 about living conditions, the ombudsman said. That included one from an inmate who was housed in a shower for several days in March 2016.
Reports about the segregation shower cells in the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun prompted then-corrections minister and Ottawa MPP Yasir Naqvi to permanently ban the practice across the province. He also appointed a task force to report on potential solutions for overcrowding and other issues in the jail.
According to the ombudsman, there were 4,051 complaints about correctional facilities in Ontario. More than half of those, or about 2,500, were about health care in provincial jails, including a lack of access to medications, medical staff and treatment.
The ombudsman’s office reported 186 complaints provincewide about the use of segregation. In April, the ombudsman made 28 recommendations to the ministry of community safety and correctional services about its use, including the recommendation it be abolished entirely. The ministry has since put limits on its use for disciplinary reasons and stopped revoking inmate privileges, but it continues to use it for extended periods for administrative reasons, including for inmates with mental health issues who ask to be segregated, or who pose a risk to the safety or security.
“As with all cases we receive, we seek to resolve complaints about correctional facilities at the lowest level possible — and many complaints are best handled within the institution,” said the ombudsman’s report. “Our office flags matters of health and safety for urgent attention, intervening when warranted, and our staff meet regularly with senior officials in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to alert them to potential systemic problems.”
“Our focus is on concerns that have the biggest impact on the well-being of those in custody — for example, prolonged segregation placements, problems with accessing medical care, lockdowns, and assaults,” the ombudsman’s office said.
TOP 5 CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES BY CASE VOLUME
1 — 647 Central East Correctional Centre
2 — 455 Toronto South Detention Centre
3 — 394 Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
4 — 370 Central North Correctional Centre
5 — 267 Maplehurst Correctional Complex
Source: 2015-16 Ontario Ombudsman’s Annual Report