In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Inquest into Private Prison Death Focuses on Time Keeping Problems

March 15, 2004
Stark Raven News

An inquest into a prisoner death at Canada's first private prison exposes time keeping problems in the prison.

Lorne Thaw, died last year, while serving time at the Central North Correctional Centre. He was found in his cell, after he didn't respond to a roll call. He had spent some time in the medical unit before being sent back to general population. He died shortly after his return.

Under the Coroner's Act, an inquest must be held for the death of anyone who dies in custody.

Only two recommendations were by the inquest jury.The recommendations are that the jail should synchronize all of the clocks inside the facility. Secondly, when guards do their rounds, the proper time should be marked down using the synchronized clocks.

The controversy came after time inconsistencies in peoples reports around the death of Lorne.

The results looking into the cause of Lorne’s death have yet to be released. An autopsy was unable to determine the cause of death.

Utah based Management and Training Corporation (MTC) is a private corporation running the 1500 bed super jail in Penatanguishine, Ontario.

Below is an article from the Midland Mirror about the inquest into Lorne Thaw's death.

Canada: Better clock watching at MTC prison?
Inquest jury focuses on timing at jail in its two recommendations

Janis Leering: The Mirror

Only two recommendations were made last week by a jury after an inquest ended in the death of an inmate at the super jail, and clocks are the focus of both.

After two days of listening to witnesses, the five-member jury said the Central North Correctional Centre should keep better track of time.

The recommendations are that the jail should synchronize all of the clocks inside the facility, including on their computers, and, when a correctional officer checks in on the inmates, the proper time should be marked down using the synchronized clocks.

The controversy comes after statements from a medical manager, who tried to recall what time he looked in on Lorne Thaw the morning of his death.

Thaw, 50, was found dead in his cell on May 8, 2003 by his cellmate. Thaw went to the jail on Dec. 28, 2002, after a domestic dispute. He plead guilty to charges of sexual assault and forcible confinement on Jan. 21, 2003, and was sentenced to seven months in jail in March.

Bill Merrick, the medical operations manager at the Central North Correctional Centre, told the jury he was 50 yards away when he learned there were problems in Thaw's cell that morning.

"I started my shift at 7 a.m., and was in a shift lieutenant's office when he got a call from a correctional officer," said Merrick.

After the phone conversation, Merrick learned Thaw was unresponsive. He went to cell 42, where he talked to the nurse who was there with Thaw.
"She said he had no pulse, and I instructed her to make the phone call to 911."

Thaw's step-daughter, Kathleen Worrod, asked Merrick to talk about the timeframe of this scene.

" I noted here that the phone call came at 7:23 a.m.," he said.

Records show the 911 phone call was made at 7:32 a.m.

Worrod asked Merrick why it took nine minutes to call for an ambulance. He said it was prudent to give the 911 operator as much information as possible, and a proper diagnosis was needed before the call was made.

But it was the jury who pointed out the possibility of Merrick being incorrect with his times.

"We're a little confused," said Joe Declara, spokesperson for the jury. "If the call to the lieutenant came at 7:23, when we look at the walking tour time, it says at 7:27 a.m., everything was OK."

Correctional officers walk through their area to ensure inmates are in their cells, and everything is normal. They log into a computer system when the walking tour starts, and log-out manually in a book when it is finished. When logging out, a correctional officer could use the time from a clock on a wall, a wristwatch, or the computer, which could all read different times.

Coroner Dr. Peter Savage, who presided over the inquest at the Midland courthouse, learned the clocks at the jail aren't synchronized.

"We're dealing with such a short timeframe here. In the operating room, we are taught to all use the same clock in case anything unusual happens. I'm wondering if the institution has told its staff how to time things."

Merrick said no, he is not aware of any such procedures.

The jury was making notes during Merrick's statements, and deliberated on the matter before making its recommendations on Wednesday.

Victoria Broughton, spokesperson with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said ministry officials still had to review the recommendations from the coroner's jury.

"We will then consult with the company running the jail, and then respond to the coroner's office," said Broughton.

Source (Midland Mirror)