The grief-stricken father of a 29-year-old man who took his own life in prison is demanding answers of the provincial government.
“How can he survive in a place like that with no one to turn to? He must have been terrified every living second there. Laws for the mentally challenged need to be changed so this can never happen again,” said Don Evans, in an email statement to Global News.
Josh Evans was found in the transition day room area of the Central Nova Correctional Facility this week. He was incarcerated on several child pornography-related offences.
According to his family, Evans was born with velocardiofacial syndrome and had the mental capacity of a seven-year-old.
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey says this is the first death to happen in that part of the jail.
“The dayroom that this individual was in, is different than the forensic population and different from the general population and intended to provide for those special needs of the individuals whether it be mental health, psychological support, or general health care,” Furey said.
Both a police and internal joint health investigation into the incident are underway.
WATCH: N.S. families want laws changed to stop criminalizing those with special needs (January 2014)
The circumstances have led to widespread questions surrounding the incarceration of untried persons with severe intellectual disabilities.
“One must consider whether there were alternatives to remanding this individual to the jail in the first place.”
“I understand he had been a prisoner for four weeks. These are very complicated cases and ensuring that resources are available to support people both in the community and in the jail, when they may have mental health difficulties, as well as an intellectual disability, these are challenges for the justice system,” Archie Kaiser said, a professor of law at Dalhousie University.
Meanwhile, Evans and his family are left with more questions than answers, while they grieve the loss of Josh.
Evans says his son was often referred to as a “gentle giant” by those who knew him.
–With files from Graeme Benjamin