Tuesday, June 11, 2019

JAIL hotline takes nearly 1,500 calls in its first 6 months


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In its first 6 months, volunteers at the JAIL hotline took nearly 1,500 calls from people imprisoned at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, serving as a bridge to building community behind and beyond bars

The Jail Accountability & Information Line (JAIL), a volunteer hotline, which has been operating weekdays from 1pm to 4pm since launching on 10 December 2018, has received 1,473 calls in the first six months of its operations from people caged at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC). People call the JAIL hotline seeking support to address human rights issues and information to facilitate their safe re-entry into the community. The sheer volume of calls reveal the inadequacy of internal and external oversight channels that Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General officials insist are sufficient to address pressing issues at the Innes Road jail and other provincial sites of confinement.

This response troubles Aaron Doyle, a founding member of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) which administers the JAIL hotline and sociology professor at Carleton University, who notes: “Ministry and OCDC officials point to the Community Advisory Board [CAB] and internal complaint processes as evidence of oversight. Meanwhile, the last CAB report available online dates back to 2016 and they’ve ignored many of their recommendations. Prisoners from different ranges tell us that some officers deny them access to complaint forms, and refuse to provide their names and badge numbers. When people call the Ministry’s Client Conflict Resolution Unit, they’re sometimes asked whether they want to pursue a complaint and told it could put them in harms way. Is this what government transparency and accountability looks like?”

Despite resistance from Ministry and OCDC officials over the past six months, JAIL hotline volunteers remain committed to working in solidarity with prisoners and their loved ones to resist state repression in ways that have made a real difference in their lives. For example, JAIL hotline Coordinator and Researcher Sarah Speight notes, “Without our frequent calls to the healthcare unit at the Innes Road jail, a number of prisoners wouldn’t have been able to go to the hospital to receive urgent care for things like broken bones or get access to their prescribed opioid substitution medications. That we’ve got to exist to do the work we do ought to give everyone pause and question why we tolerate inadequate care in the community that leads to people being behind bars where they’re dehumanized further and, in some cases, exposed to a tortured existence”.

In striving towards reducing the pains of imprisonment experienced by, and improving the post-release prospects of, people held at OCDC, building relationships and working in solidarity with incarcerated persons has been central to the JAIL hotline’s operations. Lead Coordinator of the JAIL hotline, Souheil Benslimane, states: “People behind bars experience the brutalities of imprisonment, and know first-hand the human consequences of dysfunctional Ministry policies and procedures. They also face repression and retribution for merely advocating for their human rights. Facing continued systemic violence by those officially tasked with caring and protecting them they show tremendous resiliency. We, as outside allies, have no choice but to support them in the face of normalized injustice and we’re heartened by the involvement of community care and service providers we have connected callers with to alleviate human suffering. We urge other community organizations to join us in this struggle”.

To bolster our capacity to impact laws, policies and practices at OCDC in ways that will reverberate well beyond its walls, the JAIL hotline is developing its legal strategy and capacity. JAIL hotline Legal Coordinator, Lydia Dobson, explains: “With six months of familiarizing ourselves with the issues facing people held at the Innes Road jail and their families behind us, in the coming six months and beyond we’re dedicating significant time towards the development of legal information resources and pathways to legal services so that they can better defend themselves when their human rights are being violated. The province should work with us to address issues at the Innes Road jail without resorting to more costly avenues”.

Later this month, the JAIL hotline will release its second quaterly report describing longstanding human rights issues plaguing OCDC, along with recommendations for change behind and beyond its walls. Justin Piché, founding member of CPEP and criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, expresses hope that the report will be well-received by Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, who “needs to direct her officials to stop deflecting and take immediate steps to limit the damage inflicted upon the roughly 70% of prisoners awaiting their day in court and 30% of prisoners serving short sentences at OCDC. Planning to open a new jail several years from now, isn’t an action plan, it’s doubling-down on the proven failure of imprisonment to line the pockets of big business while vital community supports are being eroded by the province in ways that undermine community well-being and safety. Premier Ford and his team need to be open for the business of building communities with more robust education and social services, and significantly more avenues for diversion and decarceration to prevent harm, instead of erecting bigger jails planned by the Wynne administration that’ll push people further to the margins under the pretense of care”.

For Media Interviews Contact:
Souheil Benslimane
Lead Coordinator
Jail Accountability & Information Line
819-592-6469

Thursday, May 30, 2019

CPEP takes part in demonstration at Queen's Park demanding care and justice for people criminalized and caged in Ontario's jails and prisons


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CPEP stands in solidarity with the loved ones of prisoners who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their lives in Ontario’s provincial jails and prisons

30 May 2019 – People held in Ontario jails and prisons face the real prospect of being harmed or killed as a result of government neglect and inadequate investments in cost-effective community services that could have steered them away from incarceration. A group of families who’ve lost loved ones to preventable deaths behind bars have organized a march and a series of demonstrations outside several Ontario jails and prisons culminating in an event at Queen’s Park today demanding change. The Criminalization and Punishment Education Project stands in solidarity with these families and others across Ontario who have lost, or are at risk of losing, loved ones to death by imprisonment.

Ontario’s jails and prisons are filled with people pushed to the margins of society who often didn’t have adequate access to housing, food, education, employment, health and mental health care, and other basic services in the community prior to their incarceration. Criminological research has shown that for every $1 invested upstream towards preventing harm we can save up to $7 on policing, court, jailing and victims’ services costs incurred when law-breaking occurs. Lydia Dobson, Legal Coordinator for the Jail Accountability & Information Line which has received more than 1,500 calls from Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) prisoners since opening in December 2018, notes: “We receive many calls about the horrors of jailing – access to justice barriers, the expensive phone system that cuts people off from their families, the use of segregation, extremely poor healthcare and food, and much more. Imprisonment does great damage to people. Ontario needs to invest more in upstream services to enhance community well-being and safety to cage less and care more”.

Before the mid-1990s, approximately 30% of provincial and territorial prisoners in Canada were presumed innocent and awaiting their day in court on any given day. According to the most recent Statistics Canada data, pre-trial detention accounts for more than half of the people held in provincial and territorial jails and prisons across the country. In Ontario, approximately 69% of the province’s prisoners have yet to be tried and/or convicted. The growth in pre-trial detention has increased crowding experienced in many Ontario jails and prisons, where 2 to 3 prisoners are routinely warehoused in cells originally designed for one person. For this and other reasons (e.g. Ministry of Solicitor General and institutional policies and practices), Ontario falls far short of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Building bigger jails has been tried and has failed to bring about positive change in this province. Ontario relies on imprisonment in place of community care far too often, and can safely alleviate jail and prison crowding by investing and relying more on proven and less costly diversion measures like harm reduction, bail with reasonable conditions, bail supervision programs, and bail beds.

Roughly 30% of Ontario’s prisoners have been convicted and are serving sentences in provincial jails and prisons. Some of these people live safely amongst us in the community where they maintain employment and/or family obligations during the week and serve their intermittent sentences on the weekends behind bars. The province can safely reduce crowding in its jails and prisons by investing in and relying more on proven and less costly decarceration measures like probation, temporary absences, weekend temporary absences, halfway houses, and parole with reasonable conditions.

When social harm occurs in our neighbourhoods, those affected need information, compassion, care, accountability and justice. Rarely are such needs met when we turn to cops, courts and confinement. What’s often most appropriate are voluntary justice processes that not only give voice to affected parties and hold people accountable for their actions in non-violent ways that promote change, but also result in transformations to social structures that give rise to harm (e.g. classism, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, etc.). Ontario should become a leader in transformative justice by building community dispute resolution infrastructure to improve justice and community safety outcomes, while diminishing policing and court costs, as well as the use of imprisonment in response to social harm.

Despite the findings and recommendations from countless coroner’s inquests, task forces, and studies, both prisoners and staff continue to endure physical and psychological harm due to preventable neglect, overdoses, and violence behind bars in Ontario’s jails and prisons. Souheil Benslimane, Lead Coordinator for the Jail and Accountability & Information Line, states: "Incarcerated callers have reported several systemic issues to us, including the denial of timely access to critical healthcare such as opioid substitution treatment at OCDC, which forces patients to suffer from excruciating withdrawal symptoms. The neglect exposes already marginalized people to even greater harm”.

By making the right investments in cost-effective prevention, as well as diversion and decarceration measures, the Government of Ontario can allocate more resources towards programming opportunities, medical and mental health services, and better trained staff to diminish the pains of imprisonment and enhance community re-entry outcomes as a result. If Premier Ford and his team want to ensure that people don’t leave provincial jails and prisons in much worse condition than when they entered or in body bags, as well as avoid the costs of future litigation and lost legal battles associated with human rights abuses occurring under their watch, they need to act today.

About the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
CPEP is a group based in Ottawa comprised of current and former prisoners, their loved ones, university and college professors and students, and other concerned members of the community who have been organizing since 2012 to reduce the use of imprisonment and diminish the pains of human caging. Current initiatives include the No Ottawa Prison Expansion / #NOPE campaign that seeks to divert funds currently allocated towards a new and bigger provincial jail in Eastern Ontario towards community care and services that will cost-effectively enhance well-being and safety. The group also operates the Jail Accountability & Information Line (JAIL hotline) that works with people held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre to address human rights issues and connect them with resources to facilitate their safe re-entry into society following their release from custody.

Contacts for media interviews
On site at Queen’s Park:
Lydia Dobson
Legal Coordinator – Jail Accountability & Information Line
647-517-3825 

By phone:
Souheil Benslimane
Lead Coordinator – Jail Accountability & Information Line
819-592-6469

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Join the #NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion readiness team!

While Premier Doug Ford and his team make deep cuts to education and social services, the provincial government announced it's moving forward with a new and bigger jail in Thunder Bay, which Infrastructure Ontario estimates will cost hundreds of millions of dollars just to design, build, finance and maintain through a 30-year public-private-partnership.

We need to be ready to respond quickly if Premier Ford and his team also move forward with a new and bigger jail in Ottawa that was previously announced by the Liberals under the leadership of then Premier Kathleen Wynne. In a terrible trade-off, the new Ottawa jail is projected to cost up to $500 million to $1 billion, all while the Progressive Conservatives are cutting $1 billion in social services across the province

Please join the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project's #NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion readiness team to resist Premier Ford's push to build jails, while making brutal cuts to care and services that actually enhance community well-being and safety. Roles range in commitment from sharing our announcements with your contacts for those who cannot devote significant time to high-level planning for those who wish to be more involved.

Email your name, email address and/or phone number to cpep.action@gmail.com to be added to our #NOPE readiness team. Upon receiving your email, we will be get in touch with you within a week with next steps.


To learn more about the #NOPE campaign click on the links below:




Infographics Series - The History of Jail Expansion in Ottawa
Part I and Part II


Also check-out our op-eds explaining why building a new and bigger jail in Ottawa is a missed opportunity to enhance community well-being and safety in Eastern Ontario:

"Here's how to really address problems at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre" 

"Divest from jails, reinvest in community supports" 

"The new Ottawa jail will just become another hellhole" 

"Why a new Ottawa jail won't necessarily make things better" 

"'There is no neutral ground':
Carceral expansion and organizations that serve the criminalized in Canada" 

"Here's why we should stop planning for a new jail" 

"Ottawa jail project needs more transparency" 

"There are many alternatives to a bigger jail" 

"Premier's support for new Ottawa jail costly, ineffective" 

"Ontario's kids need more education today, not more cages tomorrow" 
(Rabble, 4 April 2019)


#got99solutions - bigger jails ain't one
With #our1billion #BuildCommunitiesNotCages
#NOPE / No Ontario Prison Expansion
#YESS / Yes to Education and Social Services

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Care and Compassion in the Community, Not Cages: A Demonstration Demanding Justice for Justin St. Amour

MEDIA ADVISORY

WHEN?
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
12:30pm – 1:00pm

WHERE?
Canadian Tribute to Human Rights
(corner of Elgin and Lisgar)

WHO?
Laureen St. Amour (Justin’s mother)
Paul Champ (Lawyer, Champ & Associates)
JP (Member, CPEP / Criminalization and Punishment Education Project)

WHY?
The inquest into the preventable December 2016 death of Justin St. Amour began on Monday, April 8, 2019. During the inquest, it has come to light that several opportunities were missed to provide Justin with adequate care and compassion in the community during the course of his life. Living with mental health issues and often homeless, Justin ended-up at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. Placed on and then taken off suicide watch, Justin tore his bed sheets and assembled a noose in his cell, and told a guard checking-in on him that he would take his own life if he did not speak to his supervisor. Despite this, his urgent call was not taken seriously and Justin hung himself with staff failing to intervene in time. Justin was taken to hospital, where he died eight days later. The incarceration and death of Justin St. Amour, like so many others who have been sent to and died in Ontario’s provincial jails, was preventable.

WHAT?
Those gathered at the April 17, 2019 demonstration will be demanding justice for Justin St. Amour and his family in the form of provincial government action to ensure that appropriate care and compassion for people living with mental health issues exists in the community so that they do not end-up in jails like the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre or dead.

Media Contact
Justin Piché, PhD (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa)
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

Social Media
Facebook
Twitter


Monday, April 15, 2019

Caging isn't caring: Responding to the overdose crisis behind and beyond bars - A community conversation

MEDIA ADVISORY

WHEN?
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
6:00pm – 8:00pm

WHERE?
25One Community
251 Bank Street (2nd floor) / Ottawa

WHO?
Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
Drug Users Advocacy League
Overdose Prevention Ottawa

WHY?
While harm reduction advocates and medical professionals call upon the provincial government to reverse its recent decision to cut the number of overdose prevention sites in Ontario as people continue to die daily from preventable opioid overdoses, this crisis also persists in jails and prisons with far too little appropriate action. 

In the midst of this public health emergency, organizations that advocate for the rights of people who use drugs and people who have been criminalized in Ottawa are organizing a community conversation on what needs to change in order to avoid further overdose deaths in Ontario’s jails and prisons. This event is taking place in conjunction with the National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis, organized by the Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs. Those participating in the National Day of Action are demanding concrete action from all levels of government to address the overdose crisis, which has been causing devastation in the lives of Canadians on both sides of the walls for years.

WHAT?
During this event, statements will be read from individuals who are currently incarcerated in Ontario regarding the impact the overdose crisis has had on their lives behind bars and the recommendations they have to prevent future deaths in provincial sites of confinement. Speakers will then discuss the context of the overdose crisis in Ontario, the necessity of harm reduction both behind bars as well in the community, and the particular harms associated with substance use in the unsafe conditions produced in provincial jails and prisons. Refreshments and a light meal will be provided. This event aims to bring attention to issues facing people who use drugs behind and beyond bars, and to the broader themes of incarceration, substance use, and the need for increased access to harm reduction service delivery in Ontario.

Media Contact
Justin Piché, PhD (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa)
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

Social Media
Facebook
Twitter

Recent Media
Leblanc, Sean, Sarah Speight, Justin Piché and Souheil Benslimane (2019) "Ontario must reduce overdose risks behind and beyond bars", Ottawa Citizen - April 8.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Justice For Soli National Speaking Tour on Mental Health and Incarceration in Canada makes stop in Ottawa as coroner’s inquest into the death of Justin St. Amour who was jailed at OCDC begins

MEDIA ADVISORY

WHEN?
Monday, April 8, 2019
4:00pm – 6:00pm

WHERE?
MacOdrum Library
Discovery Centre / Room 482
Carleton University

WHO?
Justice for Soli with OPIRG Carleton and the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project

WHAT?
On December 4, 2016, Soleiman Faqiri was temporarily housed at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, Ontario while awaiting a bed at the Ontario Shores Centres for Mental Health. Soleiman had been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and was identified as having urgent mental-health needs by his family and correctional staff. Soleiman was killed under government care on December 15, 2016 following an altercation with guards at CECC.

In October 2017, the Kawartha Lakes Police Services (KLPS) announced that no charges would be filed against any Lindsay CECC officers. Several media reports have questioned whether the police service was far enough removed from the case to conduct its probe impartially.

On January 20, 2019, CBC’s The Fifth Estate released their investigation and findings in the documentary “Jail Death: What Happened to Soleiman Faqiri?” This investigation uncovered new evidence, including an eye witness whom provides a first-person account of the brutal assault on Soleiman by CECC guards. The Ontario Provincial Police has reopened the criminal investigation into Soleiman’s death.

During this event, where The Fifth Estate documentary will be screened, Yusuf Faqiri will speak and advocate for justice, accountability, and reform on behalf of his brother Soleiman and his family. This event is taking place in Ottawa on the same day that the inquest begins here into the death of another former prisoner, Justin St. Amour. Like Soleiman, Justin had been living with mental health issues and, instead of receiving appropriate care and compassion in the community, ended-up in an Ontario jail. In Justin’s case, he died in hospital 8 days after he hung himself with a bedsheet in his cell at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre after his repeated requests for intervention were ignored.

The speaking tour aims to bring attention to Soleiman’s case and to the broader themes of mental health, imprisonment in Ontario, and the need for reform.

Media Contact
Yusuf Faqiri
647- 620-7749
faqiri.yusuf@gmail.com

Social Media
Facebook
Twitter 
Instagram

Most Recent Media Coverage
The Fifth Estate
The Toronto Star

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

JAIL hotline first quarterly advocacy report released



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ottawa JAIL hotline takes more than 650 calls in its first three months of operations – nearly 1 in 10 callers report issues with access to and the administration of opioid substitution treatment medications

12 March 2019 – A volunteer hotline setup to take calls from prisoners at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) and their loved ones in December 2018 to monitor and work towards addressing issues at the jail has received 659 phone calls in three months. Approximately 20 percent of the total calls received from prisoners at the Innes Road jail cited health care as their primary concern, with nearly half of these callers reporting issues with access to, and the administration of, opioid substitution treatment medications in the context of an overdose epidemic inside and outside jail walls in Ontario.

While no prisoners have died recently at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) from drug overdoses, JAIL hotline callers have identified a number of issues that suggest the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is not positioning the institution as well as it could to avoid future catastrophes. Dozens of OCDC prisoners have reported not getting access to their treatment regimens and experiencing excruciating withdrawal symptoms. One former OCDC prisoner describes the impact the situation has had: “they’re doing a third more time because they’re not sleeping”. Even when people get access to their medications, callers report receiving insufficient or inconsistently timed dosages, which increases the probability of overdoses upon release. One caller remarked: “Within three weeks they tapered me down to 2 millilitres. After release I wasn’t able to make it to my methadone clinic and ended-up overdosing”. The lack of continuity in care between jails and community healthcare providers was also an issue for many callers who expressed their frustrations waiting weeks for access to their OST medications because OCDC healthcare staff were not acting on the opioid substitution treatment agreement forms sent by community doctors in a timely manner. One caller stated: “Some people get cut-off their methadone inside, then when they get released the methadone clinics are closed, and people get heroin with fentanyl in it and they OD”.

JAIL hotline coordinator Sarah Speight underscores the significance of these problems: “In the face of this crisis, where an average of more than three human beings died every day in the province in 2017 – a trend which continues – the Government of Ontario needs to do more to stop preventable deaths, including in custody”. For Speight, there are several solutions available to address the overdose crisis inside and outside jail walls: “At OCDC, prisoners who require methadone or suboxone should have timely access to their medication. Providing nasal naxolone to prisoners to augment the emergency response capacity of the institution, and providing education on harm reduction and overdose prevention resources to people upon their release from custody would also help. To ensure continuity of care from communities to jails, the provincial government should transfer medical and mental health care responsibilities to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. This would save lives and money. Premier Ford should also demand that Prime Minister Trudeau’s federal government decriminalize and facilitate access to a safe supply of regulated drugs of a known potency to prevent the further criminalization and deaths of people who use them”.

Several other issues reported by prisoners documented in the JAIL hotline’s first quarterly report include: matters relating to access to justice; prolonged use of segregation and inadequate review mechanisms; the inability of prisoners to call the cell phones of their loved ones and the above-market, high costs of collect calls; poor treatment from some staff members; lack of medical privacy due to continued medical and mental heallth assessments through cell door slots; cutting-off or modification of the administration of prescriptions; poor air quality; lack of cleanliness in some cells; inadequate winter gear to access yard; the predatory prices at canteen for basic necessities to maintain personal hygiene and food to supplement poor quality meals provided by the jail, and lower canteen account limits put in place last fall that require more frequent deposits by prisoners’ loved ones on-site; and lockdowns associated with incarcerating weekend prisoners at OCDC or transferring them to other facilities where they endured more austere conditions of confinement.

The JAIL hotline’s first quarterly report contains 23 recommendations to limit the damage of incarceration experienced by prisoners. Souheil Benslimane – who’s also a JAIL hotline coordinator – notes, “what we’re proposing are common sense remedies to improve conditions of confinement at OCDC and reduce the use of imprisonment. We will continue our work with prisoners and their loved ones, no matter the barriers, no matter the walls that stand in our way”.

To arrange for a media interview with report authors contact:
Souheil Benslimane, Coordinator, JAIL Hotline – 819-592-6469 / jailhotline@gmail.com

Friday, February 15, 2019

Invest more in young people and communities, not police to enhance safety

PRESS RELEASE 

CPEP launches #NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion infographics series, joining others in the community demanding the City of Ottawa invest in young people and communities to enhance safety

February 15, 2019 - Earlier this month, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) tabled its budget for 2019, which includes a "net incremental operating budget increase of $12.2 million", amounting to a "police tax increase of 3%" from 2018. The OPS budget also includes plans to raid municipal reserves for one-time funding allocations to off-set their budgetary shortfalls, a measure which Mayor Jim Watson has proposed should be limited so that more investments can be made in things like affordable housing. The Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) is joining others in the community who are demanding the City of Ottawa invest more in young people, families and communities, not police to enhance safety. To this end, CPEP has launched a #NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion infographics series to raise awareness about alternative ways to spend $12 million in 2019 to build safer and healthier communities across our city.

Infographic 1 - "Families & Youth
Infographic 2 - "Health"
Infographic 3 - "Housing"
Infographic 4 - "Jobs"
Infographic 5 - "Restorative Justice"

Audrey Monette, crime prevention consultant and Master’s student in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa, argues that if City Council approves an OPS budget increase they're missing an opportunity to tackle violence more effectively. She notes, “For every dollar the municipality invests upstream in prevention initiatives, they’ll save up to $7 in costs incurred by police, courts, corrections, and victims themselves when a crime takes place. This has been said before, but it bears repeating - investing upstream is more effective in preventing victimization, improving community safety outcomes, and saving taxpayers’ money”.

Justin Piché, co-founder of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project, adds: "I agree with OPS Chief Charles Bordeleau when he says "we can't arrest out way out of this issue. But there's a broader and deeper conversation that we need to have". We're not having enough of these conversations that lead to investments in our young people, families and communities that'll actually reduce violence. If we tolerate this, our children will be next. We can't leave it to them to fix this. We've got the know-how to address this now and the solutions are in investments in our young people today and in the years to come, not more boots on the ground and police militarization".

Those interested in supporting greater investments in young people and communities are encouraged to phone the offices of the Mayor and City Councillors or write letters (for an example - see the template provided by Grassroots Blackburn-Orléans) telling them #NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion. Ottawa residents can also attend the 20 February 2019 meeting of the Finance and Audit Committee (2:30pm, Colonel By Room, City Hall / 110 Laurier Avenue West) and the 25 February 2019 meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board (4:00pm, Champlain Room, Heritage Building, City Hall / 110 Laurier Avenue West) to voice their concerns.

Contact to arrange media interviews: 
Justin Piché, PhD 
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa 
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Families & Youth


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Health


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Housing


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Jobs


#NOPE / No Ottawa Police Expansion - Yes to Restorative Justice


Friday, February 1, 2019

#NOPE infographic 1 - "The Numbers"




#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series launched


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series launched urging
Premier Ford and his team to invest more in building communities, not cages

Infographics:
Day 1 - The Numbers
Day 2 - Education
Day 4 - Housing
Day 5 - Jobs
Day 6 - Health
1 February 2019 – “Leaving no stone unturned” and “everybody will have to make sacrifices” are frequent mantras uttered by Premier Ford and his team as they press forward with measures said to be aimed at “balancing the books”, making Ontario “open for business”, and putting “more money in taxpayers’ pockets”. Announcements of funding commitments made by the previous Liberal government being cut or significantly reduced by the Progressive Conservatives, along with trial balloons being floated about for “input” from and “consultation” with “the people”, are now regular occurrences. Many of these measures are aimed squarely at Ontario’s children and young people generally, and the poorest among them in particular. Their publicly-funded educations are under attack, while Premier Ford oversees the development of new school-to-prison pipelines in the form of new and bigger jails in Thunder Bay and Ottawa planned by the previous Wynne administration.

Today, the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project – a group based at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa conducting research and public awareness initiatives aimed at reducing the use of imprisonment and improving conditions of confinement – launched the first daily instalment of its #NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion infographics series that'll end on 8 February 2019 when Ontario’s provincial budget consultations are set to conclude. The initiative urges Premier Ford and his team to divest from jail expansion and invest more in infrastructure and services that’ll actually enhance community well-being and safety. In particular, the campaign aims to stop the planned replacement of the 585-bed Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre with the 25% bigger, 725-bed Wynne-Ford jail. The project is slated to cost taxpayers up to $1 billion to design, build, finance, and maintain over the life of a 30-year private-public partnership that’ll line the pockets of wealthy corporations and their shareholders, while taxpayers pay millions more every year in operational costs that could be spent on helping marginalized youth build their lives, instead of expanding our province’s capacity to cage them.

Katarina Bogosavljevic – President of the Criminology Graduate Students’ Association and PhD student at the University of Ottawa – is urging the government to invest in education, not incarceration stating: “We know from research that societies that have less social inequality and a better educated population are safer and have a higher quality of life. Ontario needs to invest more in young people, not make cuts to their educations, while building more cages to imprison them. The province should divest from building bigger jails in Ottawa and Thunder Bay, and invest in covering the costs of skilled-trades training, college and university, particularly for young people pushed to the margins by poverty”.

Concerned about the opportunities being missed by the province to tackle violence effectively, Audrey Monette – crime prevention consultant and Master’s student in Criminology at the University of Ottawa – notes: “For every dollar the province could invest upstream in prevention initiatives, they’d save up to $7 in costs incurred by police, courts, corrections, and victims themselves when a crime takes place. I don’t doubt that Premier Ford cares about community safety and victims, but he shouldn’t go down the road of expanding policing and jailing. Investing upstream is more effective in preventing victimization, improving community safety outcomes, and saving taxpayers’ money”.

Rebecca Ward – common law student at the University of Ottawa – questions the ‘criminal justice’ spending priorities of the government, noting: “In Ontario, nearly 70% of people in our provincial jails and prisons are awaiting their day in court. This is an affront to the presumption of innocence. Instead of building more cages that’ll do nothing to address court backlogs and delays, Attorney General Mulroney’s ministry should have more resources at its disposal to support restorative justice encounters when all parties affected by a criminalized act wish to engage in such a process instead of using the traditional adversarial and retributive process that often retraumatizes those affected by social harm. Her ministry could also be allocated more resources to ensure the penal process moves more fairly and efficiently. Greater investments in legal aid, coupled with more supportive bail policies and practices would also help diminish Ontario’s reliance on imprisonment and make us safer”.

In light of the on-going disaster at the Toronto South Detention Centre, which opened in 2013 and has since fallen well-short of its billing as a facility that would make imprisonment “safer for correctional staff” and prisoners, Justin Piché – Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Ottawa – argues: “If the government ‘remains committed to building a new jail in Ottawa’ to ensure ‘correctional officers work in a safe environment’, past failures be damned, the new institution should smaller than the one planned so that we can invest in more cost-effective prevention, diversion and decarceration measures that’ll diminish our reliance on human caging, while improving community well-being and safety. This work should start with investing more, not less in education”.

Contact to arrange media interviews:
Justin Piché, PhD
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

#our1billion
#NOPE / No Ottawa Prison Expansion – #YESS / Yes to Education and Social Services #BuildCommunitiesNotCages – #got99solutions, a bigger jail ain’t one

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

#BellLetsTalkOCDC demonstration being held tomorrow


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Protest tomorrow on #BellLetsTalk day to push the phone company to provide Ontario prisoners and their families with more affordable and accessible phone calls to diminish their mental distress

29 January 2019 – A demonstration is being held tomorrow on #BellLetsTalk day from 12:15pm to 12:45pm at Place Bell (160 Elgin Street – Ottawa / Algonquin Territory) against the predatory and flawed Ontario jail phone system run by Bell Canada. Speakers and others gathered will present two demands to the telecommunications giant: (1) that the company put an end to the very high phone charges paid by provincial prisoners, including those held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC), and their loved ones that deepen poverty, sever family and community bonds, and cause stress and mental anguish; and (2) that they make changes to the system they administer to allow prisoners to call cell phones to connect with their families and friends. These changes are needed given that in 2015 then Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi acknowledged that “25% of people of people who come into our care and custody have mental health problems” and research shows that imprisonment can lead to the onset or worsening of existing conditions.

Under the terms of its current contract with the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which began in 2013 and expires in 2020, Bell Canada – a multi-billion-dollar company – generates a share of its profits off the backs of prisoners who are separated, sometimes at great distances, from their families. According to CBC News, Bell Canada charges $25 for 20-minute long-distance collect calls from the province’s jails and prisons. Sadia Jama of the Canadian Somali Mothers Association notes, “when a family is experiencing poverty because of the loss of an income-earner to incarceration, the huge phone bills paid to try to stay connected during an already very isolating moment in their lives just adds to the financial pressures they face”.

Currently, individuals imprisoned at OCDC and other Ontario jails can only call landlines, which are increasingly rare. Souheil Benslimane, who is a Coordinator for the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line, notes that “since we launched the hotline, we’ve received calls from dozens of people at the Innes Road jail who haven’t spoken to their families for weeks or sometimes even months”. The situation has caused considerable mental distress for prisoners. One JAIL hotline caller, who was exasperated about not being able to talk to his wife as their household doesn’t have a landline, stated: “We need to be able to call cell phones. This is not a joke anymore”. Farhat Rehman of MOMS / Mothers Offering Mutual Support underscores what is at stake: “A single timely phone call to a family member has the potential to avert a disastrous outcome and can even save the life of a love one behind bars”.

The Bell Canada administered Ontario jail phone system also erects barriers for prisoners to connect to their defense attorneys. Michael Spratt, lawyer and partner for Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP, underscores the seriousness of the issue, noting: “In Ontario, nearly 70% of provincial prisoners are awaiting their day in court. Imagine if your future was hanging in the balance and you weren’t able to call your lawyer’s cell phone to discuss your defense. Imagine getting transferred to a jail far away from your community and then being charged a fortune when you needed to call your lawyer”.

Given that research has documented that imprisonment – through severing ties between prisoners and their loved ones – undermines the ability of incarcerated people to reintegrate into society following their release from custody, Joel Harden, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa-Centre, is concerned that “Ontario’s jail phone system is undermining community well-being and safety”. He adds, “Bell Canada needs to step up and do its part to keep families together so that Ontario’s future is one where we build safer communities, not bigger jails”.

Contact to arrange media interviews with demonstration speakers:
Justin Piché, PhD
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa 
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

First monthly report of the JAIL hotline released


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JAIL hotline releases first monthly report based on 148 calls about 
conditions of confinement at OCDC - among myriad of issues plaguing the jail, 
health care cited by prisoners as primary concern

15 January 2019 – A new volunteer hotline received 148 phone calls in the last month, the vast majority of which were from current prisoners, revealing a myriad of on-going issues at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC). Approximately a quarter of the calls received from prisoners at the Innes Road jail cited health care as their primary concern.

Poor conditions of confinement and human rights violations have been commonplace at OCDC for decades, receiving widespread condemnation in media coverage, inquests into preventable jail deaths, reports by the Ontario Ombudsperson and most recently by the now disbanded Independent Review Team lead by Howard Sapers. Despite some recent reforms, including the 2014 creation of the Community Advisory Board, the implementation of the 2016 OCDC Task Force, and the 2018 passage of the Correctional Services and Reintegration Act which has not been proclaimed into force by the new provincial government, there remain profound problems at the Innes Road jail. It’s in this context that the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project launched the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line on 10 December 2018. JAIL hotline volunteers work with prisoners and their loved ones to improve conditions of confinement at OCDC, as well as connect people to community care and service providers to help facilitate their safe re-entry into their communities upon release.

As is detailed in the JAIL hotline’s first monthly report, in several calls to the line, prisoners reported being assessed by medical and mental health professionals through their cell doors, a practice which came to light during last month’s inquest into the preventable death of Cleve “Cas” Geddes – who was living with schizophrenia and died by suicide in 2017 after being sent to OCDC instead of the Royal Ottawa Hospital for a judge-ordered psychological assessment. During the inquest, a jail psychologist who ‘assessed’ Cas through a segregation cell door noted this was “not a very therapeutic environment for an assessment”, while a deputy superintendent at OCDC noted the practice was being curbed through the availability of an interview room. Yet, many prisoners have reported that this dehumanizing and dangerous practice that inhibits care continues. One caller noted, “Half the time here you don’t get to go speak to the doctor privately... If you have personal issues the whole range can hear everything”. Another caller remarked, “You don’t feel safe about talking about mental health or other sensitive issues”. When a prisoner’s health conditions are out in the open, they can be perceived to be vulnerable, and become targets for violence and harassment. Space exists at OCDC for private health assessments and it ought to be used to the degree possible.

Other health matters reported to the JAIL hotline included the cutting-off or modification of the administration of prescriptions, which prevents OCDC prisoners from being able to follow their treatment regimen as directed by medical and/or mental health professionals. For instance, some callers reported that they’ve asked several times for their prescribed monthly shots to treat schizophrenia when they were in crisis, only to see their requests fall on deaf ears. Such inaction can lead prisoners to harm themselves or others, sometimes with lethal consequences. This must end.

As discussed in the JAIL hotline’s first monthly report, other issues reported by prisoners include: poor air quality; lack of cleanliness in some cells; inadequate winter gear to access yard; the inability of prisoners to call the cell phones of their loved ones and the above-market, high costs of collect calls; the predatory prices at canteen for basic necessities to maintain personal hygiene and food to supplement poor quality meals provided by the jail, and lower canteen account limits put in place last fall that require more frequent deposits by prisoners’ loved ones on-site; and lockdowns associated with incarcerating weekend prisoners at OCDC or transferring them to other facilities where they reported being “denied our basic rights”.

JAIL hotline coordinator Sarah Speight notes, “we’ve attempted to resolve the matters reported to us through various means, including phone calls and emails to the OCDC administration and Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services officials. While issues are occasionally resolved, officials suggest that adequate oversight mechanisms exist to address prisoner complaints. Given the volume and nature of the calls we’ve received to date, we disagree, and we’ll continue to work with prisoners and their loved ones to improve jail conditions”. Souheil Benslimane – who’s also a JAIL hotline coordinator – adds, “the official response to the issues we’ve raised with prisoners and their loved ones has been inadequate. This being the case, we’re going to release monthly reports and raise public awareness in other ways to hold OCDC, the Ministry, the provincial government, and private sector jail service providers to account for what’s taking place at the Innes Road jail in order to affect change. We don’t have a choice – the well-being of people, inside and outside jail walls, is at stake”.

To arrange for a media interview with report authors contact:
Justin Piché, PhD (Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa)
613-793-1093 / justin.piche@uottawa.ca 

Attachments:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Recommendations to address longstanding issues at OCDC

by the Innes Road Jail Prisoners' Collective

Preface from the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line


While sites of confinement differ across time and space, there are certain “carceral universals” (Gaucher, 2007) that characterize life behind bars. All prisoners are subject – albeit unevenly – to coercive power and dehumanization, violence and brutality, poor medical and mental health ‘care’, the forcible separation from, and difficulties of remaining connected to, their loved ones and communities, and increasingly costly privatized services (e.g. telephone calls, canteen, etc.), whether they are held in the provincial jail at Burnside in Nova Scotia, the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) in Ontario, the federal ‘Healing Lodge’ in Saskatchewan or elsewhere across Canada and the world. 

Below, is a list of reasonable and realistic requests from a collective of 48 prisoners at OCDC. It was sent to the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line with the expectation that it would be shared with the public in the hopes of affecting change that will limit the damage of the incarceration regime they endure on a daily basis, which will also benefit staff and the broader community to which they will eventually return.

Concerns and Requests from the Innes Road Jail Prisoners' Collective

The issues below have been discussed with 48 of us here and we hope you can help us, as they impact our daily lives and the NEW policies that came into effect in October are making our already strenuous lives even harder. As a groupwe discussed a few issues we are seeking support in resolving. We hope that the public becomes aware of the hardships we face. There are nine main issues we wish to focus on here. We are sure the public will be shocked, particularly when knowing that we have yet to be convicted.We are in OCDC on remand waiting for due process and justice to be served.

1) Our Medical Privacy Is Not Respected

Medical privacy is a huge problem at OCDC. The doctor comes on the living units between 5:30am and 7:00am. He talks to us through the hatch, which is a rectangular slot in the metal door. Everyone can hear about the personal medical matters of others. The doctor’s voice is so loud that people are woken-up by him. Alsothe door of the room medical staff sometime use to assess us is wide-open. Anyone on the other side of it can hear the conversation between the doctor and the patientWe demand that the doctor and the medical staff respects our privacy and dignity.

2) Health Care in OCDC is Dysfunctional

Seeing the doctor takes long periods of timeblood work takes months and the dentist just pulls our teeth out and never repairs them. We would like the delays to improve and to be able to get teeth cleaning yearly. This is because it makes absolutely no sense to make prisoners unhealthy given the preventable costs to all that are incurred while we are imprisoned and down the road when we return to our communities.

3) The Canteen (Commissary) Account Limit 
Causes Us and Our Families Many Problems

Since October, with the new policy being enacted, we saw a canteen account limit of $180 being imposed on us. Now, we have to make sure visitors comevery two weeks to deposit funds for us to be able to get canteen. This new administrative practice is hard on loved ones and puts a lot of stress on them and us. For this reasonthe limit should be increased to at least $500.

4) The Visitation Policy is Unsuitable and Isolating

The number of people allowed to visit an incarcerated person at OCDC is 6 visitors. Besides, we can only have a maximum of 8 visits a month. We would like to be able to put 12 people on our list as we can only change our visitor list on the first week of each month. As part of the new October policy, ONLY people on our visitors’ list can deposit money into our accounts. This is a huge problemit impacts our mental and physical health, our safe reintegration into societyas well as hampers the support we can receive from our familiesThis is because the people who send us money are not necessarily the ones who visit us. This policy isolates us from meaningful contact with our families and loved ones. We would like to see this condition removed and for anyone can deposit/send us money to be able to do so.

5) Canteen Items Are Extremely Expensive

Some canteen items are at least double the price as similar ones outside. We would like the cost to go down and our $60 weekly spending limit to go up to $80 dollars weekly to purchase goods to supplement the poor hygiene products and meals given to us by the jail in order to maintain our health. Again, it makes absolutely no sense to make prisoners unhealthy, because when we come-out with life-altering health issues it not only impacts us and our loved ones, but also all of us who pay taxes for things like health care.

6) Canteen Items Are Unsuitable For Our Needs

The canteen does not offer people with sensitive skin adequate products. We would like sensitive skin soap, lotion and deodorant. Some of us spend years at OCDC before judgements are rendered, including acquittals. We would like that the commissary to add whitening toothpaste and dental flosas these are basic toiletriesWe would like to also be able to purchase noodles and to see the selection of books widened.

7) Magazine Subscriptions Sent From Publishers Are Blocked

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, under which purview OCDC operates, encourages incarcerated people to “have access to have a general right to read and access information that is commonly available to the public and are encouraged to do so [...] To buy a newspaper or magazine that is not on the canteen list, [the prisoner] must make arrangements through a third party (e.g., family member, friend, etc.), to subscribe and pay for the newspaper or magazine”. As stated by the Ministry, we are encouraged and allowed magazine subscriptions. Yet, a policy blocking magazine subscriptions came in effect in October. Not having access to our literature harms our mental health greatlyIn addition, our families and loved ones have already paid for the magazines that are being blocked since October by the OCDC administration that is acting in contradiction with the directives that it should follow. We would like to be able to get our subscriptions back.

8) We Are Not Given Appropriate Winter Clothing

In the winter time, we are denied gloves and toques when getting outside yard time, while the jackets we are offered are very oldripped and thin. We would like warm jacketsa toque and gloves, so we can get fresh air for twenty minutes when we are offered yard without putting ourselves at risk. It is our health and safety that is at stake.

9) Meals Are Inedible and Not Nutritious

The quality of the food the jail serves us is terrible. When we get the meal trays, the vegetables are soggy and depleted from their nutritional value – the food is inedible. The nutrition guide is clearly not respected. The portions are also extremely small. We would like better quality foodmore variety and bigger portions to limit the impact of incarceration on our health.

Post-face from the JAIL / Jail Accountability and Information Line

In Canada, provincial jails are places were the people under the colonial grip of the state suffer from state-sanctioned aggression under the pretence of “public safety” and “justice”. The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) is the local remand centre situated in the National Capital Region of Canada and what transpires there is not unique to the jail. This is made evident in the writing of prisoners in Canada spanning decades, as well as the work of those involved in Prisoners’ Justice Day organizing since the death of Eddie Nalon on August 10th 1974 and the recent campaign by Burnside prisoners in Nova Scotia.

Yesterday, the men incarcerated at the Burnside provincial jail issued a statement of support to Cyntoia Brown, a sister who has been imprisoned for defending herself from her aggressor. Their solidarity extended to all women who are criminalized for the mere fact of standing up to aggressors in acts of self-defence. They demanded that all women who are incarcerated for standing up to gender-based violence around the world ought to be released. The article was written by the prisoners and shared by long-time prisoners’ rights advocate, poet, professor, and vocal social justice activist El Jones. In the piece, the Burnside prisoners called for the liberation of all victims of injustices around the world.

Back in August 2018, the individuals incarcerated in the jail located in the Halifax Regional Municipality went on a 20-day non-violent protest - which received considered public support - to challenge the inhumane conditions of detention and the injustices they were subjected to by a problematic “injustice” system that draws its underlaying foundation in colonialism and slavery. In their communications, they asserted that their goal is to improve the jail conditions in order to ameliorate the environment for both staff and prisoners, along with their respective families. After taking all the existing channels of complaints, discussion and negotiation, and after seeing their persistent efforts to improve inhumane conditions of detention turned down, rejected and thwarted, these individuals, to whom the motto “out of sight, out of mind” applies, saw themselves forced to take-up an even more proactive way to draw attention to their appalling fate. 

The bar set by the provincial jail at Burnside had been set so low that no one can honestly say that the demands put forth by the prisoners there were unreasonable. No one with the semblance of humanity can argue against their requests. They asked for better healthcare, programming, space for physical activity, an appropriate and humane visitation protocol, adequate clothing, healthier food and commissary, improvements to the air circulation system and access to a library. However, on September 2018, the last day of the protest, the prisoners reported worse conditions than those in the beginning of their peaceful action.

They continue to plead for their cause, noting that their “current standard has been allowed to deteriorate past an atmosphere that is beyond uncomfortable and is blatantly unconstitutional”. Prisoners at OCDC are expressing similar concerns and requests, and the JAIL hotline will continue to work with them and their loved ones to ensure that their voices are heard, respected and translate into meaningful change.