ST THOMAS – As an MPP who has spent the last three years confronting the problems at EMDC, Jeff Yurek was not surprised to hear that the turmoil of the past few years persists.
News this week that an inmate passed away after a suicide attempt came on the tail of six EMDC employees being fired in relation to the November 2013 death of inmate Adam Kargus.
“My condolences are with the family and friends of the inmate,” said MPP Yurek. “I have spoken on this issue a number of times to both the current and previous Minister and have warned that deaths were unfortunately going to occur if significant changes were not made at the jail.”
Yurek has maintained that the problem is and always has been overcrowding. EMDC became the destination for many inmates after the closure of various jails throughout Southwestern Ontario. The new $274 million Southwest Detention Centre in Windsor was supposed to relieve these pressures but since becoming operational, it does not have the resources to house inmates serving intermittent (i.e. weekend) sentences. These inmates instead end up at EMDC.
“I met with the previous Minister on this issue and while I maintained overcrowding was an issue, Ministry staff kept insisting that the 430 bed facility was on average well below that number,” said Yurek. “The problem with using averages though is that a weekly average can be below your maximum capacity but when you have a spike of inmates on the weekend, you can very well be pushing the capacity constraints to the limit.”
Yesterday, the Premier acknowledged the overcrowding of the jail system was an issue. She alluded to the need to buy and build additional infrastructure to help solve this problem. In response, MPP Yurek has written a letter the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections suggesting the Ministry look to use existing government assets before spending money the province doesn’t have on new facilities.
“The buildings previously occupied by Regional Mental Health currently sit vacant in my riding. They are well equipped and could be fitted to accommodate low risk, intermittent inmates.
“Whether the Ministry decides to use them, I think it is important these existing facilities be considered before the province goes ahead and spends more money we don’t have.”
Yurek noted that his is just one suggestion out there but that if the Ministry is serious about tackling the overcrowding problems at EMDC, they should consider all viable options.
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