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What is Criminalization and Punishment Education Project

A volunteer group of students and professors, people directly
affected by criminalization and punishment, and other
concerned community members. They conduct research and
advocacy aimed at reducing the use of imprisonment and
improving conditions of confinement.

What is CPEP doing right now?

J.A.I.L. Accountability and Information Line: A volunteer-run
phone line that works with prisoners and their loved ones to
improve jail conditions at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre
(OCDC), as well as connect them to community resources to
facilitate safe re-entry post-release.
#NOPE (No Ottawa Prison Expansion) Campaign: After the
announcement of a new jail in Ottawa, NOPE focused its
research on the expansion of incarceration in Ottawa. NOPE
advocates for the investment in alternatives to incarceration.
This zine was created by members of CPEP. @CPEPgroup
Ottawa’s Current Carceral Context

CPEP has focused on advocating for change regarding the

conditions and treatment of prisoners at OCDC.
OCDC is a detention facility for adults. On any given day
approximately 70% of prisoners there are presumed innocent
and awaiting their day in court. Most of the other prisoners are
serving sentences of two-years-minus-a-day.
The conditions at OCDC have been making headlines in recent
years, mainly due to overcrowding, as well as high rates of
segregation and lockdowns that result in family visits, lawyer
consultations, and medical appointments to be cancelled.
News breaking about the continued use of shower areas as
overflow cells eventually led to the creation of the OCDC Task
Force, which made several recommendations to reduce
crowding and improve conditions at the jail. While modest
improvements have taken place, several problems remain.
In 10 months, Ontario lost 3 community
members to suicide at OCDC
Cas Geddes died by suicide on February 10, 2017 at the age of 30.
After his arrest, Cas had been ordered by a judge to undergo a
psychiatric assessment at a hospital before a
trial could be set.
There were no hospital beds available at that
time, so Cas was instead sent to OCDC where
he was placed in segregation, despite it being
known that he lived with schizophrenia.
Shortly before his death, he had been on
suicide watch, where he was confined to a
cell for 23 hours a day.

Justin St-Amour was being held on remand in December 2016 when

he took his life at the age of 32. He also lived with schizophrenia
and was in segregation at the time of his death.
Justin’s mom describes him as a “loving, caring person.” She knew
he needed help, saying that "jail was not the place for him, because
he heard voices that would tell him to hurt himself.”

Yousef Hussein, 27 years old, took his life

on April 12, 2016. At the time of his death,
he had been held in pre-trial detention at
OCDC for two years. He had recently
learned that his court appearance was still
another year away.
Yousef had also been placed in segregation
in the days leading up to his death.

Cas, Justin, and Yousef are three of many prisoners who have died
since OCDC opened in the 1970’s.

Incarceration itself puts inmates at a heightened risk of

suicide. By its nature, it entails a loss of autonomy and
personal control, and separation from loved ones.
- Justice Leask, BC Supreme Court
Without any public consultation, the Government of
Ontario came up with a solution to the problems at
OCDC: build a bigger jail

The Ministry announces that “funding has been

approved for...a new 725-bed multi-purpose
correctional centre to replace the existing Ottawa
-Carleton Detention Centre.”
- May 4, 2017

“This government will

not be rebuilding the
jails of the past.”

Marie-France Lalonde
Minister of Community Safety
and Correctional Services
January 2017 – June 2018

Let’s take a quick trip down

memory lane to check out these
“jails of the past” that Minister
Lalonde spoke of...
79% of inmates had spent time
in segregation

66% of inmates identified the need for

more and better health care services
The way they treated me in there,
it’s like I was some kind of animal.
- former OCDC prisoner

With rampant mistreatment and deaths of prisoners at OCDC, it

is often forgotten that prisoners have rights guaranteed to them
by the Charter even when they are incarcerated.
This means that there are limits to the treatment somebody who
is incarcerated can be subjected to, and if the government
violates these rights, they must be held accountable.
The experiences and mistreatment of those who are incarcerated
must not be ignored by government.
A Warning from Toronto
On January 29, 2014, Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC)
opened and was meant to be a model for future jails in Canada.
The second-largest jail in the country, it contains a sky-lit
reception lobby, a 35-bed infirmary, a mental health assessment
unit, and other, seemingly innovative, elements.
TSDC seeks to use the “direct supervision” model where jail
officers are placed in units alongside those who are incarcerated,
without physical barriers. This model is thought to be more
humane and less costly.
A hiring freeze for staff in the province and unprecedented rates
of staff absenteeism quickly led to constant staff shortages and
lockdowns that sometimes lasted for days. The direct supervision
model was soon doing more harm than good, with rates of
violence in TSDC soaring.
In addition, technology malfunctions throughout TSDC left some
of the most innovative and progressive parts of the building
unusable for years after opening.
Toronto South Detention Centre is now Ontario’s most violent
jail, with reports of violence on the inside that far surpass any
other institution in the province, as well as many deaths.
Ottawa would be wise to learn from the mistakes made in
Toronto. Staff shortages and prisoner deaths already plague
OCDC. Creating a larger facility will only allow such problems to
increase and amplify, much as they did at TSDC.

Up to $1 billion
DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, over the life of
a 30-year
FINANCING & public-private

OCDC currently costs

approximately $50.2
million per year to
OPERATING COSTS run. It is estimated
that the new jail will
cost $62.2 million

This means the new jail will

potentially cost $12 million more
per year to imprison 140
additional people.


Research shows that putting people in prison is the least

effective way to enhance safety or deter law-breaking.
In fact, imprisonment damages prisoners, along with
their loved ones and communities.

CPEP has brainstormed 99 solutions that do not include
a bigger jail. Eliminating the need for jails requires the
expansion of social services such as education, mental
health supports, housing, alternative dispute resolution,
and childcare.

Reducing the use of imprisonment also requires
combatting oppressive structures such as colonialism,
racism, sexism, transphobia, classism, and ableism. If
we eliminate social and economic inequality, we can
reduce victimization and criminalization.

Instead of investing an extra $12 million a year just to
operate a new and bigger jail in Ottawa, the
Government of Ontario could invest in at least one of
the following alternatives:


Check out the whole list of solutions at

Contact the Government of Ontario and tell them
to halt jail expansion in Ontario and instead invest
in community alternatives:
Doug Ford, Premier
Call: 416-325-1941
Tweet: @fordnation

Sylvia Jones, Minister of Community Safety and

Correctional Services
Call: 416-325-0408
Tweet: @SylviaJonesMPP

You have to act as if it

were possible to radically
transform the world.
And you have to do it all
the time.
- Angela Davis, prison abolitionist