Overcrowded Milton jail could affect sentences of hardened criminals


Published March 14, 2024 at 3:01 pm

Overcrowding at Milton’s Maplehurst Correctional Facility has become a serious issue that affects sentencing of convicted criminals, as well as putting extreme stress on guards.

A recent report published by The Canadian Press shows, across the province, jails were operating at 113 per cent capacity last year.

And Maplehurst was the most crowded of all, with an average inmate population of 1,188 but an official capacity of 887 – meaning it was operating at 134 percent capacity in 2023.

The province realizes there’s a problem.

“The government recognizes the need for modernization in corrections which is why the government is investing $500 million for new staff and infrastructure improvements,” Andrew Morrison, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, told inhalton.com.

“Infrastructure improvements include completed Modular Build Facilities now in operation at Thunder Bay Correctional Centre and Kenora Jail, which will create additional space for enhanced programming and community reintegration supports.”

Modular facilities are part of the Accelerated Build Pilot Program launched in 2020 by the Ontario government to address capacity issues in the province’s health and long-term care (LTC) system.

“Through a combination of powerful partnerships, rapid procurement and in some cases, modular construction, the program has now delivered several projects in the long-term care sector. A similar rapid delivery approach has also been used for projects in other sectors, including corrections facilities,” said a government spokesperson.

“Further, construction of the new Thunder Bay Correctional Complex is underway and will become a 345-bed, multi-purpose adult correctional facility that will address capacity pressures, create additional space for programming, and expand supports for inmates with mental health issues.”

Overcrowding at jails generally puts more stress on the entire system. Three inmates are often kept in a cell designed for two. Assaults on correctional officers increase, as does their overall stress level.

In addition, 81 per cent of those being held, according to the government, are awaiting trial and presumptively innocent.

Overcrowding can also affect sentencing for even the most horrible crimes.

Last week in Brampton, a judge addressed the issue while sentencing a man who pled guilty to the second-degree murder of his wife in 2021.

Jarnail Randhawa was held in pre-trial custody for 983 days prior to his sentencing hearing and was triple-bunked for 615 days, about 60 per cent of his jail time.

Judge Jennifer Woollcombe addressed the conditions while imposing the length of time Randhawa had to serve before being eligible for parole.

“Mr. Randhawa has been under particularly onerous conditions of pre-sentence custody because of the number of lock-downs and triple bunking at Maplehurst.”

Randhawa was eventually ordered to serve 13 years before being eligible for parole, below the 15 years Crown attorneys were seeking.

A multitude of issues is contributing to the overcrowding, including case backlogs in Ontario courts and the bail system.

With files from The Canadian Press

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