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Canada: MTC inmate death still questioned.

Still unclear how inmate got fatal cut
Inquest investigates death of 'superjail' prisoner, 20
Amy Lazar
The Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, September 14, 2004

MIDLAND - After Day 1 of an inquest into the death of Jeffrey Elliott, it remains unclear just how the 20-year-old acquired a cut on his finger that ended in his blood poisoning death.

Mr. Elliott, an inmate at Canada's first privately run corrections facility, died in Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto on Aug. 29, 2003, four weeks after sustaining the cut on the inside of his right-hand ring finger.

Mr. Elliott had only 23 days left on a robbery sentence in the controversial Central North Correctional Centre in Pentetanguishene, called the "super-jail." The conviction, his only brush with the law, was for robbing a fast food restaurant in Pembroke. Mr. Elliott was arrested after he tried to return the money.

The outcome of the inquest may have a bearing on the future of Canada's first and only privately run corrections centre. U.S.-based Management Training Company (MTC) is contracted by the Ontario government to run the facility. The business charges the province $75 a day per inmate, as part of a five-year, $141-million contract, compared to the average of $175 a day it costs the government to keep an inmate in other facilities.

Doug Thomson, the facility administrator, told the inquest that 1,184 inmates are serving sentences at Central North. But in August 2003, and still today, the facility is not at full capacity.

The contract is up for renewal in 2006, at which time the government will consider recommendations and results of inquests like this, Mr. Thomson told coroner Dr. Peter Savage.

Mr. Elliott's father, Tom, and grandmother, Elizabeth, drove about six hours from Pembroke to attend the inquest.

"We made a commitment when we came here that we would stay until the end," said Mr. Elliott.

By the end of yesterday's hearings, there were many facts about the injury still left unclear.

Inmate Wyman Morris told the inquest that Mr. Elliott cut his finger on a food "hatch" on the door of his cell. But during further questioning by Jean Legault, a lawyer representing Mr. Elliott's family, Mr. Morris refused to expand on his reply. Later, Michelle Forget, a correctional officer, told the inquest Mr. Morris was injured a day after Mr. Elliott cut his finger in a yard dispute with another inmate.

Another inmate, Bruce Glen, told the inquest the cut was gushing blood for three days. But Dr. Peter Moran, who was at the facility Aug. 1, said he put stitches in Mr. Elliott's finger on the day he sustained the cut.

Lois Bullock, the chief of records for the correctional centre, provided a chronology of Mr. Elliott's final days, including the dates and times of his seven trips seeking medical attention at the facility's medical centre, as well as Barrie's Royal Victoria Hospital, Huronia District Hospital and Mount Sinai.

According to Ms. Bullock, there was a record that Mr. Elliott was moved to protective custody on Aug. 1. She could not say why. "It just says 'protective custody,' " she told the inquest after checking her records.

On Aug. 2, Mr. Elliott was moved into a segregated cell and on Aug. 5 he was moved into the medical wing, according to Ms. Bullock.

Later in the afternoon, the Crown focused questions on Dr. Moran, a general practitioner who treated Mr. Elliott's cut by cleaning it and administering Proline sutures.

Dr. Moran, a Barrie doctor who visits the facility on Fridays, was at the correctional centre on the day Mr. Elliott sustained the cut.

Crown attorney David Russell questioned the doctor's report, which states silk sutures were used for the wound, a series of questions that went on for about an hour.

"The jail has never had silk sutures," Dr. Moran told the inquest, unable to provide an explanation for the mixup.

Mr. Elliott said he was surprised his son had been "shipped back and forth so many times" to different medical facilities. He added he felt left in the dark, since no one contacted him about his son's death the day it happened.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Bullock read an offender incident report, dated Aug. 26, to the court, stating numerous attempts were made to contact the inmate's father, without success.

"That's a lie," said Mr. Elliott. "There's an answering machine on all day, and call display, and there was only one call asking to call back."

More physicians are scheduled to appear in court today and tomorrow, as the inquest continues.

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