The inquest into 8 deaths at Hamilton’s Barton st jail gets underway

A long awaited inquest into the drug-related deaths of eight inmates at the Hamilton Wentworth Detention Centre is now underway. It was an emotional day for family members, some who have been waiting years for answers.

The inquest is looking at the cases of inmates who died in the Barton street jail between 2012 and 2016. In 2012 Bill Acheson and Louis Unelli died there. In 2014 Trevor Burke. In 2015 Steve Neeson, David Gillan and Julien Walton and in 2016 Peter McNelis.

The first witness was a Staff Sgt from Barton who was asked about security and searches inside the jail. The inquest heard there’s no real time video monitoring, security footage is only used after the fact and that officers make their patrols and interact with inmates to find out what’s going on.

Jail guards have complained that under-staffing is part of the problem. The Staff Sgt saying there’s usually about 400-500 inmates at a time, in a facility that was built for about 150.

Since these deaths there has been changes inside the jail including body scanners but people are still dying. There have been at least 5 “undetermined deaths” that are also suspected to be drug overdoses.

This inquest has faced many delays. It is expected to last 6 weeks and hear from about 100 witnesses.