Death of inmate prompts changes at Burnside jail
Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice is making changes to the Burnside jail following an internal review into an inmate death.
Joshua Aaron Evans of Bridgetown, N.S., was remanded to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility on Aug. 1. He was found in severe medical stress on Sept. 10 and died the next day in hospital.
The 29-year-old had been charged July 12 with child-pornography-related offences, as well as failing to comply with a probation order and failing to comply with a prohibition order. He had previously been incarcerated after being charged with child pornography-related offences in Niagara Falls, Ont.
WATCH: After a 29-year-old man attempted suicide at the Burnside jail in September, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey was on defence as the man’s family and the justice community seek answers. Alexa MacLean reports.
In a news release, the Department of Justice says Evans was being held in the facility’s transition day room and was being monitored by clinical staff from the Nova Scotia Health Authority and correctional officers.
“The room is a direct supervision unit that supports individuals in custody who live with special needs,” the release reads.
At the time of his death, Evans’ family told Global News the man had died after attempting suicide at the facility.
His aunt, Christine Barnes, said Evans had the mental capacity of a Grade 2 student.
“Basically he’s like a seven-year-old boy in a man’s body,” Barnes told Global News.
Evans’ father said he and his family were demanding answers from the provincial government, following his son’s death.
“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 told Global News.
According to the Department of Justice, an internal review into his death found that Evans was having “normal interactions” with inmates and staff on Sept. 10 until the evening lockdown at 8:25 p.m. The last recorded round by staff was 9 p.m. and nothing out of the ordinary was observed.
“At the next regularly rescheduled round, at 9:30 p.m., staff found Mr. Evans unresponsive in his cell. Correctional officers immediately began first aid and called for assistance. Efforts to revive him continued until he was transported to hospital,” the department stated.
The review determined “that staff responded appropriately to the incident” but the review found two areas of concern.
First, correctional staff had not completed daily progress reports for six days leading up to Evans’ death. The reports are used to record the behaviour of inmates in the transition day room.
“The intent of the progress report is to support both the offender in the transition day room and our social workers and forensic hospital staff to have a daily occurrence log of the behaviours, activities and signs that anyone of the inmates in the facility would show,” said Justice Minister Mark Furey.
“Those circumstances could support future work within the facility, whether it continues in the transition day room or an inmate is then moved to the forensic hospital.”
Secondly, staff were away from the day room between 5:58 p.m. and 7:26 p.m. on Sept. 10 responding to another incident. That is against policy and procedures. During that time, the inmates were confined to their cells, and this resulted in two missed rounds at 6:30 p.m. and 7:34 p.m.
As a result of the review, Correctional Services says it will add resources, including an additional full-time social worker and inspector to “ensure compliance and mitigate risk in facilities.”
As well, the department will be conducting a program evaluation and making improvements to better support inmates with special needs.
They’re also initiating a “restorative conference” between staff, senior managers and Evans’ family.
Furey called the events leading up to Evans’ death “tragic circumstances that we do not want to repeat.”
“This is a priority for the department and it’s important and I say that based on my 32 years of policing experience. Front-end police officers need to be more informed, educated and trained as are every other level of our criminal justice system — legal aid, public prosecution, our judiciary — on trying to identify and recognize these circumstances before we end up with individuals who have cognitive developmental delays within our correctional facilities,” he said.
With a file from Alexa MacLean
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