Ottawa jail in lockdown

posted on July 20, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

Original author: Nelly Elayoubi Source: The Ottawa Sun Date: July 18, 2004 Detention centre inmates confined to cells since Thursday in contraband search

INMATES at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre were being searched one-by-one yesterday during an internal investigation which has had the facility in lockdown since Thursday. The lockdown started at about 6 p.m. after a specific incident with one inmate, said Ministry of Public Safety and Security spokesman Bruce O'Neill.Several sources told the Sun an inmate had ingested a quantity of drugs and that the internal investigation was drug-related, but O'Neill would not confirm that, saying: "I can't make any comment on individual cases." One source told the Sun the inmate had to be taken to hospital after a drug overdose. Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Tim Halderson confirmed an inmate was escorted by police to the Ottawa Hospital's General campus Friday morning. He also said their services were no longer needed by early afternoon. Yesterday, visitors to the detention centre expressed frustration over being denied access to the facility. During a lockdown, inmates are restricted to their cells and can't receive or make phone calls and can't receive visitors. "It's like high security, (the prisoners are) all in their individual cells or if there's more than one in the cells then they're all in their cells and basically that's where they stay," O'Neill said. Sophie Harkat -- whose husband Mohamed Harkat has been behind bars without charges since he was arrested by Ottawa police on Dec. 10, 2002 -- was livid yesterday after being turned away from the jail for the second weekend in a row. 'VERY SCARY'

"Today I come and see people dressed up in tactical gear -- this is a very scary thing to see," she said. O'Neill downplayed the lockdown, saying it's a routine situation following certain procedures and protocols. "It's nothing of a critical nature. There's no safety of staff or prisoners at risk," he said. Reasons for a lockdown vary from routine electrical problems to major incidents, such as reports of a weapon, one inmate attacking another or an inmate attacking staff. Yesterday, the ministry's Institutional Crises Intervention Team was at the jail conducting searches on the inmates. The searches are expected to be wrapped up today or possibly tomorrow.