Today is Day 8 of self-isolation for myself and my family.
More than ever, I rely on local journalism to keep me informed about what is happening in my community. Now, I recognize that journalism – like everything else – is under the strain of the presence of COVID19 (and I know it was in a fragile state to begin with) but still, I would like to share with you the stories that I would like to see reported on in our community.
Why is it apparently impossible for the government to ban “flushable wipes” that contribute to sewer backups because they create ‘fatbergs’ in the sewer systems?
Is #TakeoutTuesday an appropriate gesture if we really want to support local businesses during this time of economic stress?
Is asking the entire city of Windsor to all order takeout on a single day really the best way to help local businesses? Or will it only add stress and possible exposure to employees that conflicts with current ‘avoid crowds’ messaging from public health officials?
To what extent are residents of Windsor-Essex engaging in self-isolation? I’m self-isolating, so I can’t tell.
But the story that I would most like journalists to press our officials on, is the matter of the Southwest Detention Centre.
Are local officials planning and acting aggressively enough to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Southwest Detention Centre?
I’m not particularly well-versed with the inner workings of the local criminal justice system. However, I do follow local news somewhat closely and the stories about SWDC that I have read have given me pause:
The overcrowding at a facility opened in 2014 to alleviate serious overcrowding at the former Windsor Jail means that some cells designed to hold a maximum of two inmates now have to accommodate three. “I have (client) inmates who are sleeping on the floor,” said Carroccia. “I’ve heard lawyers say they couldn’t talk to clients because of lockdowns.”“Crowded Windsor jail causing headaches for lawyers, courts, inmates“, Doug Schmidt, Windsor Star, October 3, 2019
Joe Gratton, a 31-year-old Windsor man, died from one overdose Wednesday at the South West Detention Centre, and Blake Carter, 21, also of Windsor, remained in an intensive care unit with a police presence, the Windsor Star confirmed.Windsor overdoses add to region’s drug toll behind bars, London Free Press, November 1, 2019
An inquest has been announced into the death of a 30-year-old woman in Windsor. Regional supervising coroner Dr. Rick Mann says an inquest will be held for Delilah Blair. She died in hospital on May 22, 2017, following transfer from the Southwest Detention Centre. An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act.“Inquest announced into death of woman at Southwest Detention Centre“, CTV Windsor, Friday, May 3, 2019
A former Ontario corrections officer is hoping to organize a panel discussion to talk about alleged harassment, racism and corruption that takes place in the corrections and law enforcement sector. Iosko Assenov resigned from his job in 2016 because of severe depression, which he attributes to working conditions at the South West Detention Centre in Windsor, Ont. where he said he was subjected to bullying and racial slurs.“Ex-corrections officer wants panel discussion on racism and harassment in sector“, CBC News, May 24, 2019
And then there’s this:
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has confirmed that a person performing maintenance work at the South West Detention Centre has tested positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson for the Ministry said the person “was not directly involved with the care or custody of inmates.”“South West Detention Centre maintenance worker tests positive for COVID-19″, CBC News · Posted: Mar 20, 2020
I don’t think it’s generally understood that the majority of those being held in detention centres (“jail”) have not yet faced trial. “Approximately 74 per cent of detained inmates are awaiting trial at detention centres across Ontario, while approximately 80 per cent of inmates detained at the SWDC are awaiting trial. ” ***
We – collectively – have not adequately prepared for this moment as well as we should have. We now know that we have to do more than hope for the best. We need to ensure that everyone is preparing for the worst. Journalists who ask difficult questions of leaders remain a important force of local accountability. I wish them well.
***Quick aside: at the 34 minute mark of the Wag The Doug podcast about the 2019 Annual Report from the Ontario’s Auditor General: #15 Dirty Money, Expired Eggs: The Auditor General’s Annual Shaming you can hear how broken the administration of the Ontario justice system really is.