Innes Road jail likened to Iraqi prison camp

posted on October 07, 2004 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

NOTE: The facility in question is the same one that Mohamed Harkat has been held in since December 2002. Original author: Lee Greenberg and Jake Rupert Source: The Ottawa Citizen online URL: [link] (subscribers only) Date: October 06, 2004 Lawyer wants inmate freed unless conditions are improved promptly

A lawyer for an Ottawa man facing two murder trials has accused the provincial government of running the Innes Road jail like an "Iraqi prison camp" in an application that requests the accused be released if conditions don't improve. The application, filed late last month, states that during Wahab Dadshani's two months in segregation at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, he has been subject to "physical and psychological cruelty." Mr. Dadshani has been deprived of regular showers, physical activity and meetings with his lawyer, the document states. His health has deteriorated. "The applicant has been housed in cells that are not fit for human habitation due to infestations of insects and other periodic problems," according to the document. Mr. Dadshani's lawyer, Susan Mulligan, calls living conditions at the Innes Road facility subhuman."It's horrific. For at least the last six months, maybe longer, these people have been living three, sometimes four to a cell that's eight by 10" feet, Ms. Mulligan said.

"Sleeping on the floors that are infested by insects. They're not being given regular hygiene, not allowed to shower or brush their teeth on a regular basis. Many of them aren't getting access to even a phone. They can't move around and are developing hip problems, blood clot problems."

Mr. Dadshani is one of eight men charged with first-degree murder in the September 2003 death of Charbel Chaar, 26. Mr. Chaar was beaten, stabbed and shot to death in front of the Midway Family Fun Park.

He is also charged with second-degree murder in the death of Mike Rankin, 27, who was shot in the face at close range in a Kanata home in September 2002.

At a Nov. 1 hearing, Ms. Mulligan will ask a judge to move Mr. Dadshani out of segregation and to ensure his basic human rights are met.

"If the court orders those things and they don't happen, then I will be asking for his release," she said.

Ms. Mulligan will subpoena Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Monte Kwinter to testify at the hearing. Ministry lawyers have told her they will try to prevent the minister from testifying.

The Innes Road jail, where Mr. Dadshani has remained on and off for the past two years, is a remand centre populated mostly by men awaiting trial or sentencing.

"These guys are presumed innocent and haven't been convicted for the most part," said Ms. Mulligan.

"If you go to the penitentiaries, where you do have a lot of the guys that society would deem the worst, they've been sentenced (and) found guilty. They get contact visits, they get exercise, they get the right to work, they get some reasonable rehabilitation. They get access to hygiene, there's medical access on site."

Ms. Mulligan's application is the latest incident in a string of events relating to chronic overcrowding at the jail. Those problems became more acute with recent jail closings in communities like Pembroke and Cornwall.

The problem was compounded last May when construction began on a retrofit that will add 237 beds to the institution.

Since then, judges have granted three-for-one credit for time served at the jail. That means for every week they actually served, inmates are credited with three weeks served.

At a sentencing hearing in August, Ontario Superior Court Justice Denis Power said conditions in the jail are so bad because of overcrowding, they bring "the administration of justice into disrepute."

In May, Ontario Court Justice Lise Maisonneuve granted credit for jail time served at a three-for-one rate to a man convicted of spousal abuse.

Mr. Kwinter was unavailable for comment on conditions at the jail. His spokesman, Adrian Dafoe, said conditions at the jail were "getting better."

But documents obtained by the Citizen under freedom of information legislation show many inmates are still sleeping on the jailhouse floor.

The ministerial briefing notes show that on Sept. 2, apparently a date chosen at random, 17 inmates slept on mattresses on the floor. The document notes the institution was 95-per- cent full that night.

Defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon says those figures are "proof positive" that conditions at the facility are not improving. He believes the Ottawa jail is the only one in the province where judges grant inmates a ratio of three-for-one for time served.

Mr. Greenspon, who is president of the defence council association of Ottawa, will apply for standing at the Dadshani motion Oct. 15. He says Mr. Dadshani's problems apply to all inmates at the jail.

A meeting room to accommodate "professional visits" by lawyers has disappeared, Mr. Greenspon says. Lawyers are now forced to meet with their clients in front of other visitors, where they are separated by thick glass and forced to talk to them by telephone. All documents exchanged between lawyers and prisoners are now examined by guards.

Some defence lawyers have showed up to meet with their clients, only to be told they had been transferred to Lindsay, about four hours away.

Inmates' constitutional right to counsel is being jeopardized, he said. "I mean, most lawyers don't have eight hours to see their client for a trial that's coming up."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2004