Action needed as inmate deaths rise, Ontario report says

An expert panel from the chief coroner's office in Ontario says urgent action is needed to fix systemic issues in correctional facilities as the number of inmates dying in custody has almost doubled in recent years.

A report released by the panel this week says 25 inmates across more than two dozen facilities in the province died in 2019 and 46 inmates deaths were recorded in 2021.

The panel examined patterns in 186 deaths that occurred from 2014 to 2021 and says almost every life lost could be deemed preventable.

It says almost 40 per cent of the deaths examined occurred after inmates consumed a toxic drug, and deaths by suicide accounted for 24 per cent.

The report says there is a severe lack of accountability and transparency, and there needs to be a focus on the wellbeing of inmates and staff in Ontario correctional facilities.

It suggests immediate action to prevent future deaths, including greater attention to the lived experience of inmates, their loved ones and staff, and the adoption of new technology that removes barriers for inmates needing help for mental and physical issues.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.

The Canadian Press