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Inmate Killed in Private Prison

Richard Brennen and Betsy Powell
Staff Reporters
May 6, 2004

An inmate has been stabbed to death at Ontario's only privately run provincial prison, officials confirmed yesterday.

"There was a stabbing, the inmate was taken to hospital and he died and there is currently an investigation into the incident," said Adrian Dafoe, a spokesperson for Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter.

Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene has been dogged by controversy, including health and safety issues, since the maximum-security jail opened in November, 2001. It is the first murder at the jail.

In addition to the police investigation, Dafoe said the ministry will conduct its own probe and inquest.

Peter Mount, communication director for the facility, which is run by a U.S.-based private corrections company, said an inmate was transferred to Huronia District Hospital after staff responded to a medical situation in one of the units around 9:30 a.m. The inmate was treated but died about two hours later. His identity was being withheld until his family is notified.

Mount said the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment was contacted immediately, "as we would do with any activity, major or not, and they are conducting a complete investigation."

There are about 1,100 inmates at the facility, all serving sentences of two years less a day or on remand awaiting trial.

The last provincial inmate killed was at the Guelph Correctional Centre in 2000.

Don Ford of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, representing guards who work at the Penetang jail, said the "conditions up there are pretty horrible." OPSEU just signed a collective agreement there after bargaining for a year.

The province has a contract with Management and Training Corporation-Canada to run the super jail until 2006, when corrections officials are to do a comparison study with an identical, publicly run super jail in Lindsay.

OPSEU president Leah Casselman said she raised health and safety concerns about the Penetang jail at a recent meeting with Kwinter.

"There was an offer between the union and the employers joint health and safety committee, which has worked very effectively in the ministry, to go into that facility, do an audit and work with the union and management there and make sure it was a safer place and they didn't take us up on that," Casselman said.

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