KAWARTHA LAKES-Tami Taylor has been visiting her husband Joey at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay every Monday and Friday for over a year. When she was told her visit on Family Day Monday was cancelled and her husband had been transferred to an institution in Penetang, she was shocked. “I am devastated,” Taylor told Kawartha 411 News. “They just took away all of my husbands hard work. He was working on his grade 12, he needs 1 more credit. He’s been seeking medical attention for internal bleeding. And me and our daughter seeing him constantly. That is rough on him too. He needs our support.” Taylor says these support systems are integral to an inmates success once out of jail.
Kawartha 411 talked to Joey in Penetang this morning. He says he found out he was being moved when he went to use the phone and it wasn’t working. “I asked why the phones weren’t working and the Sergeant came over and said you are getting transferred to Central North, we need to open up this space.”
Taylor says more than 100 inmates were moved over the weekend or are in the process of being moved and many families weren’t notified in advance. “Not even a chance to say goodbye or I love him,” Taylor says. “We won’t get to see him for who knows how long. This is so cruel.” Taylor says she cannot make the trip to Penetang.
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS)is being very tight lipped but confirmed inmates are on the move, sending a one sentence answer to a number of questions from Kawartha 411. “The ministry is retrofitting the fire suppression system at CECC and as a result inmates are being moved to other facilities to allow the work to proceed.” Andrew Morrison, Communications MCSCS.
We asked the Ministry how many inmates were being moved, when they would be brought back to Lindsay and if the families were notifed in advance. They didn’t respond.
Taylor says she was told the issue is overcrowding. “I can tell you that they are saying the move is due to overcrowding. They need room for remands. They are moving people that are sentenced. Threatening them with violence if they do not comply with being moved.”
Overcrowding has been an issue at the jail for years. In January 2018 the union said overcrowding may have played a role in a riot at the facility. The jail has a capacity of nearly 1,200 inmates and is chronically over crowded according to the union. Two units were damaged during the riot. Officials say fires were set and there was some flooding and other damage. Read more here:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2017/05/04/riot-at-lindsay-jail-wednesday/
Our sources say a number of the inmates are being sent to the Central North Correctional Facility in Penetanguishine, a facility with it’s own history of overcrowding. A Ministry report in 2015 found, “Overcrowding in the medical unit has been a concern with staff and the CAB. On occasion male offenders are double-bunked or even triple-bunked.” The facility has also been short staffed. “Staffing levels at CNCC were down again this year. Staffing levels are considerably lower at this institution than other provincial institutions of similar size.” The report states. “There is a high number of staff that are required to complete community escorts. If there is not sufficient staff for this assignment, staff members may be seconded, leaving some units short of correctional officers. When this occurs, areas are normally locked down to maintain an appropriate level of security. This past year has seen lockdown numbers rise due to staffing, searches and weapons threat assessments. Lockdowns effect the inmate’s ability to receive programming, family visitations and regular recreation time.”
Statistics from the Ministry show nearly half of Ontario’s jails are overcrowded and at a six-year high that sees cells meant for two people at times hold three or more. Many of these inmates are on remand.
This morning we talked by phone to several other inmates from Lindsay, who had been moved to Penetang. They all reported the move as “out of the blue” and say no explanation was given. Thomas says he was threatened with tear gas if he refused to go. “They just told us to pack our stuff, threatened us with tear gas and ICIT if we didn’t go. I’ve seen them do it, so we had no choice.”
Tyhe says he had no idea what was going on. “I couldn’t even tell my family until I got here to Penetang. They can’t visit me here, it’s too far.”
Martin is worried about his family. “It’s very difficult emotionally. It will be a really long trip for my nine year old son, I feel for my family having to come so far. I need then, they are my support system.”
Another worried it could also complicate his release plan. “I only have 50 days left and was working with staff at CECC on a release plan.” Ramsey says “I want to go to London but at some jails you have to figure out how to get home on your own. In Lindsay they would bus you where we need to go”
One of the inmates says he heard the move was prompted by structural issues at the jail. In 2017 there were reports of poor conditions at the facility. Inmate Harley Guindon took to facebook saying “We have rusty cell vents blowing air that is not sanitary, we also have an air intake vent that hasn’t worked in years. Our lungs are being poisoned with every breath we take. I feel it’s criminal. Are we not entitled to clean air because we are inmates?”
The Union has said in the past mold and air quaility was an issue at the jail.
A union source we spoke to said the inmates were moved for some upgrading of the facility. We are still waiting for answers from the Ministry.