Family members who have lost loved ones to overdoses at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre say they’re angry after a series of posts on Kijiji reportedly advertised the memorial crosses that had been erected in front of the Barton Street jail as “firewood.”
The crosses are meant to commemorate those inmates at the jail who have died from overdoses.
According to news reports, one Kijiji post says the crosses are for sale and are “worth more than the lives these crosses represent.” Another ad reportedly promised to pay extra for a photograph of the crosses burning.
The posts have since been taken down.
Amy McKechnie, whose brother Ryan died from an overdose at the jail in 2017, said a friend sent her one of the ads on Friday night. When she reported that post, she says, three more popped up on the site.
“It goes beyond ignorance. It’s so disrespectful to the families,” said McKechnie, speaking on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show. “It was hurtful.”
She said people often don’t see inmates suffering from addiction and dying from overdoses as human beings, but McKechnie says the person who made those posts on Kijiji went beyond what she normally sees.
“Regardless of where they died, they left behind family members who put those crosses there in their memory, and those family members are mourning them. And you’re disrespecting that,” she said.
An inquest into overdose deaths at the detention centre produced 62 recommendations in order to improve conditions at the jail.
McKechnie said she and other relatives of inmates who have died from overdoses at the jail are still waiting for change to happen, despite the inquest wrapping up more than a year ago.
She said she received an email from Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, who said the Ministry of the Solicitor General has hired an addictions counsellor, installed a partial X-ray scanner, placed all new inmates into an intake assessment unit for 24 to 72 hours, conducted biweekly canine searches and installed an institutional security team.
However, it doesn’t seem to be working, said McKechnie, who describes Hamilton paramedics’ presence at the jail as a “revolving door.”
“If you’ve brought in these things and you’ve implemented 80 per cent of these recommendations as you’ve stated, then why are all of these overdoses still constantly happening?” she said.
Families of those inmates who have died have held several rallies outside the detention centre, calling on the province to do more to prevent future deaths.