Province must move inmates out of Don Jail in wake of latest jail death: NDP
TORONTO - The provincial government must move as many inmates out of Toronto's Don Jail as it can to avoid the kind of bloodshed that's resulted in two recent deaths at the notorious facility, an opposition party said Tuesday.
Kevon Phillip, 24, was slain over the weekend, making him the second inmate to be killed in the jail in two months.
The jail is "one grim ugly place" that's outdated, overcrowded and hard to manage, said New Democrat Peter Tabuns, whose east Toronto riding includes the jail.
Things haven't improved since he toured the jail more than a decade ago, and the government must move quickly to end the dangerous conditions that are leading to violence, he added.
"It's just as grim, forbidding and depressing (a) place now as it was then," Tabuns said.
"I think it would make sense for them to act very quickly to provide alternative facilities. The overcrowding is dangerous and obviously results in people being killed."
Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci wasn't available Tuesday to respond, but his spokeswoman Laura Blondeau said the ministry is conducting its own probe of Phillip's death, in addition to the police and coroner's investigations.
The ministry has taken steps to improve security at the jail, such as installing 60 new and upgraded security cameras in all areas of the jail other than living quarters, which the guards monitor, she said.
The Don Jail is slated to close in 2012 and the inmates will be moved to the new, state-of-the-art Toronto South Detention Centre, which is under construction, Blondeau said.
"In light of a death, that's no consolation to anybody who suffers the loss of a loved one," she said.
"But in terms of the issue of overcrowding and that kind of thing, it's something that, when our government came in, we recognized it and we are actually doing something about it."
According to his lawyer Jason Dos Santos, Phillip had recently been acquitted of three sets of criminal charges related to stolen cars and was in the facility because he was facing deportation to Trinidad.
Phillip had been in custody for more than two years but remained inside the jail after his acquittal in November.
A source familiar with the investigation said there are preliminary and unconfirmed indications that Phillip was asked to bring in drugs but failed to deliver, which resulted in his death.
Police say Phillip was discovered by guards at the front of the cellblock on a range shared with 39 other inmates.
Three inmates are also facing charges of first-degree murder in the beating death of Jeffrey Munro, 32, who was attacked Nov. 6 in his cell.
That same week Kevin Pereira, 32, was viciously assaulted by another prisoner.
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