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More inmates headed to London’s troubled Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre

One of Ontario’s most notorious prisons is getting a little more crowded after the province announced it’s sending inmates from Windsor’s shuttering jail to the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in London.
One of Ontario’s most notorious prisons is getting a little more crowded after the province announced it’s sending inmates from Windsor’s shuttering jail to the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in London. File Photo

TORONTO – One of Ontario’s most notorious prisons is getting a little more crowded after the province announced it’s sending inmates from Windsor’s shuttering jail to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London.

In a Sept. 16 letter to Windsor-West MPP Lisa Gretzky, Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi said that, as Windsor’s new $247-million South West Detention Centre ramps up, the province is sending a handful of low-risk offenders who serve their time on weekends to the London jail.

“I was shocked,” said Gretzky, who serves as the NDP critic for Community Safety and Correctional Services.

READ MORE: Inmate attacks in Ontario jails at five-year high as violence soars

The new Windsor jail is a 315-bed facility and opened this past July, designed to alleviate the pressure throughout the province’s over-crowded corrections system. But an emailed statement from the Ministry of Corrections says “4-6 current male intermittent inmates from Windsor and Chatham area” have been housed at the Elgin-Middlesex facility since Aug. 18.

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And they need to get there on their own dime: The province “does not arrange transport for intermittent inmates.”

The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre has become embroiled in a $325 million lawsuit against the province over allegations of overcrowding, violence, and other human rights violations.

“I’m a little shocked that the Minister is sending [inmates] there knowing there are so many issues,” Gretzky said.

The facility’s now-notorious violent confrontations came to a head last year with the beating death of 29-year-old Adam Kargus on Oct. 31. Six employees were fired, accused of failing to provide the necessities of life, among other charges.

London attorney Kevin Egan, who is representing inmates and former inmates in the lawsuit, said Naqvi’s statement is “ridiculous.”

“Here we have got a facility that was originally designed to house 150 inmates and is now somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400 and the ministry keeps insisting it has the capacity for more,” Egan said. “Where are these people going to sleep?”

READ MORE: Ontario’s short-staffed jails face chronic lockdowns, staff, inmates say

According to numbers obtained by Global News through a freedom of information request, the facility was built in 1977 with an original capacity for 208 inmates. Today, its stated capacity is 452.

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Egan says the jail has been plagued by “serious systemic problems.”

“When an inmate is tortured and murdered over a long period of time and nobody comes to his assistance, and in fact his body is not found until the next day,” said Egan referring to Kargus. “Certainly there are problems.”

A statement from Naqvi’s office says Elgin-Middlesex has an average of 430 beds available and has since April 1, 2014 housed an average of 383 inmates, including weekend intermittent offenders from the London area.

With a report from Patrick Cain in Toronto

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