"Bail beds" among 42 recommendations from Task Force on Innes Road jail.
Ontario’s Minister of Correctional Services released a report today to address overcrowding at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre. Some of the 42 recommendations are already being implemented.
Yasir Naqvi says changes at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre were long overdue after ongoing complaints about overcrowding at the jail, with double, even triple bunking.
“Simply put, the status quo can't continue,” Naqvi said in a news conference outside the Ottawa Courthouse on Elgin Street, :Our gov't is focused on building safer stronger communities and transforming our corrections system, which is the key point of this exercise.”
In April, the minister appointed a 13-member task force to come up with some solutions. Among those 42 recommendations:
- reforms to the current bail system
- diversion programs for those with mental illness or addictions
- mental health training for corrections officers
- and "bail" beds that would house low-risk prisoners outside the jail to ease capacity.
Marg Welch is the Associate Deputy Minister of Corrections, “Provided the safety and security of the community is not at risk,” she said, “we might be able to put them in supportive environments in the community in beds that are designated for bail supervision.”
Conditions at the Innes Road jail have long been an issue, with some inmates sleeping even in the shower in the jail’s segregation unit. Naqvi had ordered an end to that “appalling practice”. Since April, two prisoners have died at the Innes Road facility, one by suicide.
Bryonie Baxter, the Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, says the recommendations “have the potential to effect significant change for people incarcerated at OCDC. We would like to make it clear from the outset that we believe the majority of people who are incarcerated there and at jails and remand centres across the province should not be incarcerated.”
Inmates were asked to contribute to the task force recommendations. 130 of them provided feedback, says Meredith Porter, the Chair of the Community Advisory Board at OCDC.
“It’s important for the work we did to give the women and men at OCDC an opportunity to share how we can make their day to day lives better.”
“The most important part of the recommendations,” says Solomon Friedman, a defence counsel and member of the task force, “Is that for first time it is recognizing the strong link between the overuse of sureties and conditions and overcrowding at institution. If we don’t recognize that bail problem, then we can’t address it.”
Also on the task force are two members of the Crown's office, with a focus on public safety.
“I am not at all concerned these recommendations will impact public safety,” says Crown Attorney Vikki Bair, “or I wouldn't have been participant to any of the recommendations.”
The recommendations are targeted for the Innes Road facility specifically -- but the minister hopes the work of the task force can be applied to jails across this province.