Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) has been the site of numerous controversies and incidents highlighting the challenges faced in running a humane and properly-functioning correctional facility. Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the center has faced condemnation for overcrowding, solitary confinement practices, staffing issues, and notable incidents including inmate deaths. However, recent efforts have also been made to improve conditions.
History and Opening
The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre first opened in 1972 as the main provincial correctional facility for the Ottawa region. With a capacity of 575 inmates, it was constructed to house primarily those awaiting trial or sentencing.
Location and Capacity
The facility is located at 2244 Innes Road in Ottawa, Ontario. Its stated operational capacity is 575 inmates.
OCDC is currently managed by Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
Over the years, the jail has been criticized by observers for not meeting expected standards of prisoner treatment.
Due to capacity issues, overcrowding has been a consistent issue. Inmates have reported being triple-bunked in some cases. The practice of double-bunking was banned in 2016 but other crowded conditions have persisted.
Lack of Yard Time
Prisoner advocates have reported inmates going over 2 weeks confined indoors without the minimum 20 minutes per day of outdoor yard time.
Showers Used as Cells
In 2016, it was revealed that showers were being used to house inmates due to lack of proper cell space. This practice was subsequently ordered stopped.
Between April and September 2015, OCDC put inmates into solitary confinement 555 times, which critics called shocking and excessive. In many cases, multiple inmates have reportedly been kept together in confinement due to ongoing crowded conditions.
Staffing and Operations Issues
In January 2016, correctional officers threatened a strike over working conditions like increased lockdowns and lack of visitation. A 2015 prisoner hunger strike also occurred after meals had to be eaten in cells due to low staffing levels. These incidents highlighted ongoing challenges with smoothly operating the facility.
Progress and Changes
Following growing calls for reform, the provincial government instituted some changes at OCDC.
Special Task Force
In March 2016, a special task force was appointed to quickly address urgent issues at the detention center.
The task force was initially able to implement 11 out of 42 urgent improvement recommendations for OCDC. These included:
- Reviewing mental health policies and staff training
- Guaranteeing basic hygiene products for inmates
- Introducing a prisoner transportation coordinator
- Reducing maximum daily prisoner population to 87 percent capacity
- Ending bunking in showers and restricting double/triple-bunking cells
However, as of fall 2016, 21 recommendations still remained incomplete from the original list issued that spring. Fulfilling these remains an ongoing process.
Despite reform efforts, concerning incidents have still occurred periodically at OCDC.
In March 2016, a prisoner collapsed and died on-site after complaining of feeling unwell and not receiving medical attention in time. While the cause was listed as heart failure, it highlighted the strained conditions inside.
In conclusion, while OCDC has faced major criticism over prisoner treatment, modest reforms have led to some operational improvements. However, significant progress still remains needed to address ingrained issues like overcrowding as well as lapses in medical care and rehabilitative services. Sustained political and public attention, as well as ongoing independent oversight, can help ensure Ottawa-Carleton develops into a properly functioning and ethical correctional institution.
Q: When did the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre open?
A: OCDC opened in 1972.
Q: What triggered reform efforts at OCDC?
A: Growing reports of overcrowding, lack of prisoner yard time, use of showers as cells, and other conditions led to calls for changes starting around 2015-2016.
Q: What were some initial reforms implemented?
A: Early reforms included guarantees of basic supplies for inmates, reducing maximum populations, and ending use of showers as cells.
Q: How many reform recommendations remain incomplete?
A: As of fall 2016, 21 recommendations of an original 42 had yet to be implemented.
Q: What was a notable incident that occurred in 2016?
A: In March 2016, an inmate died after collapsing and reporting feeling unwell but not receiving timely medical care.