April 16, 2015

(Ed note: A group of mothers who gather for mutual support and whose children are locked up in the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre were invited to speak at the recent public forum sponsored by Dr. Aaron Doyle of Carleton University.  The spokesperson for the MOMS delivered this stirring address to the forum and in a departure from our usual practice communiqué quotes it in its entirety to allow our readers to understand better part of what has gone wrong with our justice system.  The speech was delivered by one of the MOMS who wishes to remain anonymous.  We are profoundly grateful for permission to present the speech to our readers.)
 Mothers Offering Mutual Support – Ottawa

I am honoured to be here to read a statement to you from the MOMS group.  Mothers Offering Mutual Support is a local organization that supports mothers (and aunts, sisters, grandmothers) whose sons or daughters are involved in the justice and / or corrections system.  Our goal is to support and educate one another throughout this journey, as well as to advocate for issues that cause us grave concerns.

Conditions at OCDC are precisely one of the reasons why we advocate.  Let me tell you why:

I want you, for a moment, to think of your own family members, your love and concern for them.  Imagine, if you possibly can, that due to a variety of circumstances, your son or daughter or grandchild ends up being arrested and placed at OCDC.  Now, if you are like any of our moms, that alone will put you in severe shock.  You would likely never have imagined that this could come to be.  You would likely never have given a second thought to the conditions at our local remand centre.  Did you even know there was one?

And if you did,

–      Could you ever have imagined sleeping on concrete floors on a thin, worn foam mattress beside the open toilet where urine gets splashed on you and staff and inmates walk over your bedding because you are 3, crowded into space for 1 or 2,

–      Where your medication is not given to you regularly,

–      Where is it near to impossible to get psychiatric or medical help,

–      Where telephone calls are expensive, difficult to access and regularly disconnected,

–      Where you may not get any fresh air, natural light or physical activity for days and days on end,

–      Where family visits (and only two 20 minute visits are allowed per week) are often cancelled because of lock-downs,

–      Where TB, hepatitis C and antibiotic resistant infections continue to spread because of unsanitary conditions,

–      Where you may not even be given toilet paper for days spent in solitary.


Right here in Ottawa, in Canada’s capital city, we have an institution that should make us all ashamed.

You will hear stories tonight that you may think are exaggerated.  The inmates just want cushier conditions!  We know differently because we have seen the effects on our loved ones.  We see the weight loss, the cuts and bruises, the swelling mouths from infections, the untreated mental illness becoming more and more profound, the cough of the TB, the rashes, the dark circles under the eyes from lack of sleep, their sinking spirits.  We often don’t hear the true depths of the deplorable conditions until after they leave OCDC, because of their fear of consequences.  The shame, the humiliation that we families endure is nothing compared to the conditions our loved ones are subjected to.  Their humanity is degraded at every turn.

We know that our sons and daughters, our loved ones, have done harm to others.  We deeply regret that and know that they need to take responsibility for their actions.  But we also want them to make positive changes and go on to lead a good life – because most of them will be returning to our communities.

And so, we speak out today on behalf of all moms in our situation, especially those who are voiceless, invisible in our society, who have so many other struggles that they may feel they can’t do or say anything.  Those incarcerated are loved members of someone’s family.  We must take action because the conditions at OCDC have no place in a developed, civilized country.  Thank you for listening.

MOMS (Ottawa) invite contact through their web site:


Winnipeg Free Press – Kathleen Saylor
Use of solitary confinement jumps at Stony Mountain prison

Stony Mountain inmate population has jumped by 19% from 2009-2014 but the use of solitary has jumped by 26%.  Refusing to call it solitary confinement and insisting it is used only for security and disciplinary reasons, the CSC record keeping says that 30% of the inmate population spent at least one day in solitary, including inmates with mental health issues.  Lisa Kerr, a doctoral student at New York University says:  “We are seeing in Canada tougher sentencing measures coming in, we’re seeing funding being stripped away from rehabilitation programs in the prison system,” Kerr said. “We are seeing, through the federal Conservatives’ tough-on-crime agenda, that the tone of our criminal justice policy has shifted, and it has shifted to a control-oriented logic that departs from our rehabilitative tradition.”  John Hutton of Winnipeg John Howard sees an increasing number of mentally ill inmates placed in solitary because they have mental health problems.