Barton St. Jail “one of the worst”

We’ve been hearing about problems inside the Hamilton Wentworth Detention centre for years, whether it’s overcrowding, under staffing, or inmate deaths. Today NDP leader Andrea Horwath and the president of the union representing correctional officers took a first-hand look inside the jail.

They say the Barton street jail, along with other jails across the province are in crisis and something needs to be done and fast.

“They are all in trouble but Hamilton is one of the worst I would put it in about the top five.” Smokey Thomas OPSEU President.

“They put their lives on the line literally every single day and that’s one of the things you really get a sense of walking through the facility.” Andrea Horwath.

The NDP leader toured the Barton street jail today and says it’s in crisis, one that’s been years in the making. There have now been at least half a dozen drug overdose deaths at the jail since 2012 and an inquest has been called to look in to drug use. They’ve been asking for body scanners that are being used in jails in the states and as a pilot project at one jail in Toronto. They cost about a quarter of a million dollars but pick up things their metal detectors can’t.

Overcrowding is another big issue, the facility was built for about 150 inmates right now there are almost 500.

“Our cells were originally designed for one inmate and in most of our pods we have two at least and sometimes three.”

These issues are not just happening at the Barton street jail, they say there’s a crisis at jails across province. Today the province says it’s hired more correctional officers and a new class is currently being trained. They have added 17 mental health nurses to facilities across Ontario, including one at Hamilton Wentworth and they are working on rolling out mental health training to correctional officers as well.


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