A Nova Scotia woman whose brother’s life drastically changed after being taken into police custody says the recent death of an inmate at the Burnside jail could have been prevented.
Charlene Lafitte-Bourgeois’s brother, Peter Lafitte, suffered a permanent brain injury in August, 2016 after he was arrested for public intoxication.
Charlene says security cameras show that within 45 minutes of Peter being in a jail cell, he attempted to take his own life.
“You see him take his shirt off, tie it around the bars and plainly see that he’s hanging himself,” Lafitte-Bourgeois told Global News on Saturday.
Peter, then 47, was taken to hospital on life support. He survived the suicide attempt, but is now under 24/7 care at a nursing home.
“Our Peter’s gone. He’s probably a little worse than he was two years ago,” said Charlene. “He’s just a shell of what he used to be. It’s very tragic.”
Lafitte-Bourgeois is once again sharing her brother’s story in light of the death of 29-year-old Josh Evans, who attempted suicide while in a transition day room at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility on Monday.
He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead the next day.
Evans’ family says he had the mental capacity of a seven-year-old and had previously been diagnosed with velocardiofacial syndrome. He was also placed on suicide risk while in custody in Niagara Falls.
WATCH: N.S. justice minister fields tough questions after inmate death
Evans was taken to custody on two different occasions for child pornography-related offences. But Charlene Lafitte-Bourgeois says when it comes to inmate safety, the degree of the offence shouldn’t matter.
“I guess this whole thing with putting people that have mental issues, or even if they’re drunk, somebody should be watching those cameras at all times,” she said.
“If you take somebody into custody, you are now responsible for their well-being. You can’t leave somebody that’s mentally challenged or drunk, and then bring them out on life support or dead.”
Charlene believes in these types of cases, there needs to be some form of accountability.
“When your brother comes out of a jail cell less than an hour later on life support, somebody is at fault. Somebody was not doing their job. Somebody should have been reprimanded for that.”
“Obviously they’re not doing their job, or this would not keep happening.”
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey confirmed Thursday that the inmate died while in a transition day room — a space for people with mental health issues or other challenges who do not meet the criteria to be housed in the forensic part of the jail.
He added that this incident was the first death to happen in that part of the jail.
In a statement to Global News, Evans’ father, Don Evans, said he intends to hire a lawyer and pursue legal action.
“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,” Don Evans’ statement reads.
But for Charlene Lafitte-Bourgeois, she just hopes the issue of inmate safety is addressed so that nobody else ends up in the same situation as her brother — or worse.
“It’s really sad that another family has lost a loved one to none other than somebody not doing their job well enough,” she said.
“I’m not lumping all guards or police officers into this, but it just seems to be in Nova Scotia, it’s going on way too much.”
–With files from Sarah Ritchie