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Ski Mask

Hell on Earth

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I was just reading this today and thought I'd post it here. I passed this place as a kid all the time when my dad worked next to it. creeped me out. its fucking evil. they were demanding it be closed even back then...





'Brutal, medieval:' Inside the Don jail

Stink of vomit, urine and grimy mould fills dingy 21st-century anachronism






The stink is what gets you first inside the Don jail.


It smells like vomit, urine and years of caked-in, grimy mould. Every prisoner in his bright orange jumpsuit, every overworked and harried guard, breathes this toxic stench in with every breath.


And, then, there's the din, the mind-numbing din of hundreds of prisoners — 674 yesterday morning in a facility with a capacity of 504 — yelling, banging and driving themselves crazy.


Entering any of the numbered cell blocks at the Don is like walking into a madhouse from another century. Prisoners stand on each other's shoulders to hoist themselves up against the bars, just to get a glimpse of the sky in little windows across concrete corridors.


"I worry somebody's going to fall and have a serious accident one day," says a guard, of these human pyramids straining to see light inside Toronto's 21st-century anachronism.


"It's horrible. It's tough. I can't tell you," says one prisoner, 35, jailed for cocaine possession. He shouts to make himself heard above the noise of Cell Block 3C.


"We're packed in here three to a cell. There's no room. Sometimes, the toilets are overflowing. It's really bad and there's nothing we can do.


"There are guys being peed on," he says. "Like animals."


"Hey, hey, HEY!" yells another inmate. "I'm having a seizure. Get me out. GET ME OUT OF HERE!"


"Oh, pipe the f--- down," yells a man with several teeth missing. "You're fine. Just shut up."


We're on a tour with Liberal MPP Dave Levac, from Brant. It's not the first time Levac, his party's public safety and security critic, has been to the Don. But he has come again in the wake of a judge's decision this week to cut prison time for a man convicted of attempted murder because he'd served time in the Don jail.


A "medieval, brutal" place was how the judge described it.


Levac brought me in with him because "the public has the right to know what's going on." Public safety is on the line, he says, with criminals being set free because of Third World conditions in the jail that should be holding them.


"We're crowding the streets with people who should be in jail," says Levac. "Tory mismanagement of the corrections system is putting public safety at risk."


Now, deplorable conditions are even worse.


For the past six weeks, prisoners have been living in "lockdown," which is what they call health restrictions imposed to protect them from the SARS virus.


There are no visitation rights. Prisoners are pretty much confined to their cells, or small concrete "walkabouts" in front of every section of 18 cells.


The guards refer to each floor as the "Hall of Mirrors" because of the identical layout of the cells, each with a toilet and sink, small table and two bunks.


There are supposed to be two prisoners to a cell. But that's stretched to three, or even four, sleeping on thin, striped mattresses that stink.


"Something's got to give. That's why the guys in 2C blew on Sunday," says one prisoner, of a protest over food that turned violent.


Prisoners lie on mattresses on the floor outside their cell units. They watch TV on four suspended units per block, they mill around and they try to make themselves heard on phones they say don't work.


In Cell Block 3C, a few prisoners play lodui, a Jamaican Parcheesi-like game.


Morale is at a low among prison staff. That just makes it worse.


Since 1996, when the Ontario's Conservative government began to cut budgets, they've lived on the brink. This past year alone, $181 million was cut from Ontario's public safety and security budget.


"The staff doesn't know from one minute to the next what the future holds," one prison employee tells Levac. "You go to the bank and ask for a mortgage and they say, `You work where? Didn't that close down already?'"


"After all of my time working here, I have no idea what is going to happen to me tomorrow," says another prison official. "I feel like Dead Man Walking."


"A lot of people are bailing out of the system," says another.


"It is," he says, in classic understatement, "a negative atmosphere."


Court wagons pull up to the basement floor entrances every day with prisoners.


Inside are five bullpens, as guards call the cells, with some prisoners still in street clothes, others in orange jumpsuits.


About 25 guys are crammed into the first holding cell.


"Get off my f------ foot, man," yells one guy.


"Hey guard, don't you think there are too many people in here?" shouts another. "I can't breathe. I can't breathe," says a guy from the floor.


Down the corridor, another prisoner is just yelling. He just keeps yelling.


"Don't worry about him. He's okay," a guard says later. "He is all right."


And these, supposedly, aren't even the high-risk prisoners, the men in an understaffed psychiatric unit, who lie on narrow bunks talking to themselves.


The thinly stretched staff at the Don is responsible for figuring out which prisoners require psychiatric help, who should be on medication, who needs to come to the health unit at 1:30 p.m. every day for methadone treatment and who is a danger to other prisoners if they are not segregated in the "seg unit."


"The strain is there, that's for sure," a jail official tells Levac.


They estimate that up to 20 per cent of the prisoners here at any one time require psychiatric counselling.


4A North is the psychiatric unit .


Water leaks out of cells on to the floor. The smell is worse here, an even more acrid odour of urine.


Looking into most cells, all you can see are the stocking feet of men lying on their bunks.


"It's difficult placing inmates who require help," says a guard.


"I can understand," replies Levac. "I guess it's either here or in the streets."


In the "seg unit" — 3B — a prisoner who calls himself Joe Schmoe says he will be out in about two weeks. He won't say why he's been segregated from other prisoners.


"But I may be back. I can't guarantee nothing. I've been coming here since the 1970s. "


"I outrank you," he tells a guard.


The Don houses everybody from drunk drivers to murderers. Essentially, it's a remand facility, where prisoners await sentencing and shipment to other facilities.


But, in some cases, prisoners spend six years or more here.


A kitchen tour is sickening.


What looks like pea soup covers large areas of the floor. Mashed potatoes slime down the sides of counters and every surface is coated in grunge.


"Watch your step, don't slip," says a prison official.


The tour winds down. Levac has a few moments to chat with prison officials before leaving.


"Well, I won't pull any punches," he says. "You've got a tough place here."


He is talking to the converted. Everyone who works here knows that.


The problem, as far as they are concerned, is that nobody seems to be listening.



Additional articles by Linda Diebel

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heres an even more glowing article from 2000:





Dungeon on the Don

Conditions at Ontario's jails are appalling, and could get worse as the province takes a more punitive approach


"What the fuck am I supposed to do about this shit?" a woman is bellowing, making it impossible to hear what Robert Rousseau is saying. I am in the visitors' gallery of the Don Jail, peering into a gloomy, glassed-in booth at Rousseau, who's talking to me on a two-way phone. The gallery echoes with the cacophony of girlfriends, wives and mothers chatting with inmates. Over the noise, Rousseau is telling me how hard it is to get medical care in the Don. "I am going to drop," the 52-year-old frets.


From what I can tell, he's not being alarmist. Rousseau has been in jail for three months, since being arrested in the stabbing death of a Toronto rooming-house resident. But this small, heavily tattooed man with a ghastly yellow pallor looks incapable of getting through the day, let alone killing anyone. His right arm is withered and crippled, and he has trouble uttering a coherent sentence -- a result of strokes.


Rousseau has had difficulty sleeping because of back pain, and his cardiac condition is so severe that he needs a patch placed over his heart every day to administer a drug. But at the Don, he initially wasn't given the right patches, and received them at the wrong time of day. He's also had trouble getting colostomy bags, and can't get them changed without a nurse, who isn't always available. "There's often no one around," he says. "This is really hard on me."


Now his lawyer fears Rousseau won't live to see a trial. "Given that homicide trials can take two years, and the level of medical resources at the Don, I would be naive not to have concerns about my client having a trial before he dies," says Edward Sapiano.


Rousseau's complaints about the Don are by no means unusual. In fact, conditions at the jail are generally considered medieval and inhumane. "The Don Jail is a pigsty," says Wes Wilson, a Toronto criminal lawyer. "It's hard to think of any condition there that's acceptable."


Three years ago, the U.S. State Department said the Don was so awful that inmates were pleading guilty just to get out. Indeed, lawyer Clayton Ruby calls the Don a "manufacturer of guilty pleas."


What's so hellish about the Don? For starters, it's overcrowded. Originally designed to house 275 prisoners -- one per cell -- the jail now houses more than 620, usually three to a cell. This means one must sleep on the floor. Yet the number of corrections officers has declined. Not surprisingly, tension is high.


Loud noise is constant. Mice and cockroaches plague the facility. At least 30 per cent of the jail's population suffers from some form of mental illness. There is limited recreational equipment, and many services have been cancelled.


And things continue to get worse: since November, prisoners have been locked in their cells for 12 hours a day -- an increase from nine. Next week, management will impose a smoking ban, a move that ignited a hunger strike at the Metro West Detention Centre in May. "With that amount of overcrowding, no access to recreation, a lock-down of 12 hours, a reduction of cigarettes and a lack of staff," says Lynne Slotek, executive director of the John Howard Society of Toronto, "it's an accident waiting to happen."


Worse, these conditions are forced on people who have yet to be found guilty of any crime, and are presumed innocent. The Don Jail, along with the Metro East and West detention centres, is designed for short-term stays as prisoners await trial. Inmates reside there for 30 to 90 days on average -- although some remain for months and even years. "To make the argument they should be punished doesn't wash, because they've not had their day in court," points out Kelly Hannah-Moffat, a University of Toronto sociologist and prison expert. "Yet they're forced to live in a punitive environment where their basic human rights are taken away."


The good news is that the Don is slated to close next spring. The bad news is that conditions in the East and West detention centres -- which will remain open -- aren't much better.


In many respects, the story of the Don offers a glimpse into the future of the prison system in Ontario. The Harris government is building so-called "superjails" to replace many existing facilities, but critics see this as a move to an American-style, privatized, harsher corrections system that, in the long run, will cause more problems than it solves.


"Harsher conditions for inmates could have disastrous results and by no means solve the problems it prophesizes to solve," says Hannah-Moffat. "It taps into a somewhat misinformed public sentiment that getting tough on crime will solve the problems that are incumbent in the creation of crime. The government would be better advised to deal with the root causes of crime, such as poverty."


An uninviting concrete and red-brick edifice at the corner of Broadview and Gerrard, the Don was originally erected in 1863, although the section still used today was built in the late '50s. The Don's conditions have never been considered exactly bucolic. In the 1920s, one grand jury called it a "dungeon, like the Black Hole of Calcutta." In 1964, the jail was declared a tuberculosis hotbed and a "sweatbox" during summer.


Rudy Pacificador experienced the Don's horrors first-hand during the six and a half years he was incarcerated there. Pacificador arrived in Canada in 1987 as a refugee from the Philippines, found a job, got married and had a child. But back in his homeland, he was accused of being involved in the murder of a politician -- a charge he says is untrue.


In 1991, Pacificador was arrested, denied bail and stuck in the Don awaiting extradition. On his first day, he saw one inmate beat another in a dispute about a piece of bread. That night, he lay on a mattress on the floor of his 7-by-8 cell, but couldn't sleep because mice kept running over him. "It's a very violent place," recalls the 44-year-old Pacificador. "People fight for everything -- toast, TV, you name it. You get to the point where you're desensitized."


Eventually Pacificador began complaining. "I became quite vocal," he says. For his troubles, he was accused of "inciting a riot" on a number of occasions and thrown into segregation.


Pacificador began catching cockroaches, and when a Ministry of Corrections official toured the jail, Pacificador gave him an envelope full of them, much to the embarrassment of the jail's supervisors. He was moved to a cell with an even worse cockroach problem. "Discipline is very arbitrary," he says.


In 1997, Pacificador's lawyers launched a court action, arguing that the conditions in the Don constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The judge decided not to hear the Charter case, but did grant Pacificador bail, and he was released in 1998. Today, he's trying to put his life back together while his extradition case continues. But the jail's conditions are burnished on his mind. "Picture it," he says. "You are in a cell with two other people, with one guy on the floor. If you need to take a pee, what do you do -- hold it until morning, or go while standing over someone?"


Wayne Kennedy has been in the Don since December on a parole violation. The 40-year-old is in a "range" of 18 cells with 54 others -- three to a cell. "It's disgusting -- they treat you like an animal," he says. Exacerbating his situation is chronic back pain, as well as a nervous condition. Now the stress is pushing him to the edge. "I feel suicidal because of this jail," he remarks. "It's craziness in here."


Indeed, these jails have become a dumping ground for the mentally disabled, "because of a shortage of psychiatric forensic beds," says Anita Barnes, program manager of the Mental Health Court Support Services. "These people should be in hospital, but end up in custody for often long periods of time."


Provincial cuts mean more people with mental health problems are on the streets, many of whom are arrested for petty crimes. They're thrown in the Don because there's nowhere else to put them. "Hard as jail is for everyone, it's harder for these people," says Daniel Brodsky, a lawyer who represents the mentally ill. "They are the least able to complain."


Evelyn Allen, central co-ordinator of the Prisoners With HIV-AIDS Support and Action Network, says inmates with AIDS in the Don don't get access to a primary-care physician, painkillers or adequate blankets. "The stress of being incarcerated is really hard on the immune system of someone who's HIV positive," she notes.


Toronto's detention centres are also unpleasant places to work. Thomas George, a corrections officer at the Don for six years, says corrections officers have been leaving due to the Don's pending closure, and that the staff shortage is so severe that officers are pressured to work even when sick. "The staff are overworked, morale is low," he says.


Ryan Sellick is a corrections officer at the Toronto East Detention Centre, where 21 staff were cut last month. Built to house 180, it currently has 550 inmates. In his time there, he's had HIV-positive inmates bleed on him and feces thrown in his face. "I've worked 640 hours of overtime this year already," he says.


If jail conditions are abysmal now, they could get worse when the Harris government's scheme for the corrections system is realized. Ontario's jails and detention centres house about 7,600 inmates -- one-third of whom are awaiting trial, the rest serving sentences less than two years (inmates with more than two years go to federal penitentiaries).


In 1996, the government announced a plan to close 31 older facilities. Now they are upgrading some and building three superjails at a cost of $325 million. At least one -- and likely all -- will be privatized.


Overall, the provincial government has taken a "get tough" approach to corrections, closing down halfway houses and the bail program. Sentencing has become harsher, leading to higher rates of incarceration. But experts say these measures will, in the long run, be counterproductive.


As will the superjails. Based on a pod design, they house inmates in large rooms, usually monitored by a solitary guard and video cameras. This allows for fewer corrections officers. But the academic literature says that this approach leads to higher levels of recidivism. Says Hannah-Moffat of the superjails, "You're basically kept in this box and watched all day. It's certainly punishment, but in the long term, what does it accomplish?"


Ross Virgo, spokesperson for the Ministry of Correctional Services, says the reforms are designed to make the prison system more cost-effective. He claims the new jails should remedy the overcrowding, and that staff reductions have occurred because Ontario is spending too much per inmate compared to other provinces.


In regard to the mentally ill, he says, "Anyone being held in jail is because of a criminal matter, not a mental health disorder." Virgo says remedial programs will be offered in the superjails, and that programs were cut to focus resources on those already convicted.


Still, if we judge a society by how it cares for the less fortunate, the evidence the Don offers is disturbing. And it appears that more problems lie ahead.

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oh, and the main reason I posted. a judge the other day awarded a convict with credit for 3x the amount of time he served in the jail since its so horrible. he was in for a somthing like a year, and the judge said it was the equivalent of 3 in a normal facility. damn.

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thats fucking horrible


i can't think of too many criminals who deserve to spend their lives like that


jail is fucking disgusting no matter what

that place will turn anyone into an animal

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man felt alil rumble in the jungle after reading all that....man that shit s horrible.....:yuck:

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it would be bad enough if they were all convicted criminals, but the don is a "remand" centre. all those people are awaiting trials. think of being in there for 6 months then going to court and being found not guilty. 6 months in hell and you never comitted a crime. ouch.

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I count my blessing that I've never ended up there.


And I'm sure that a bunch of the people who got out of there had to walk across the 'suicide bridge' on their way 'home'.

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Guest WebsterUno
Originally posted by ese

6 months in hell and you never comitted a crime. ouch.


rich people never go through that kind of shit.

That why its still goes on. They can usually bail

themselves out, and wait for trial at home.

Its us poor folk that have to endure shit like

that. Then come to find out, youre innocent!

Jail sucks.

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thats fucked. i thought canada was the happy go lucky good twin of america. socialized medicine and shit.


i mean i know human rights violations dont matter anywhere but really....that is some wrong shit. i mean come on.....


are they trying to make the most effective murderer factory or somthing?

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I've heard some bad shit about the Don firsthand. Still, it's only for shorttimers and anybody doing less than 2, I believe. 3 to a cell? That's in every fucking jail around here. Goddamnit, when are they gonna hurry up and build the super prison in Milton?

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'2 years less a day'


That's what they say when sentancing.

Essentially if you're doing 2 years you go to

a bigger prison. So there's short term guys

in the Don plus those guys who are waiting for

trial, waiting for a sentance or being transfered

from a lorger spot.


I heard it's haunted too! BOO!

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Guest sneak

sounds fucking nasty....urgh

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the shit i hated about being locked up for periods of time was definately the lack of sunlight. Its like being locked in a cold ass basement about 50ft by 100ft lit by 3 super low watt tubes. I got used to the smell and the noise easy. But not being able to see daylight and losing all perspective of what time it is can really fuck with your head.


I pray i never go back. Jail doesn't rehabillitate shit.

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thats why you dont do stupid shit that will land your ass in jail. however its also really fucked up at the same time. there is no sound solution, building more prisons instead of self improvement facilities is stupid as well. whatever..NOT MY PROBLEM.

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Guest willy.wonka

shut it down along wiht every prisoner in there.

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Originally posted by metallix

thats why you dont do stupid shit that will land your ass in jail. however its also really fucked up at the same time. there is no sound solution, building more prisons instead of self improvement facilities is stupid as well. whatever..NOT MY PROBLEM.


Shit some times you gotta do some stupid shit to survive. Its not always so back and white. But then again i don't think that more self improvement facilities is the answer either because some people dont want to change. I've been watchin the pattern of guys from my old neighborhood where they go to prison for a few years, come out, get some dope, fix up a ride, bust some caps, fuck some hoes then by the middle of the summer they are gone to do a few more years. This goes on over and over again.


I was thinkin about this for a while and i came to the conclusion that there is no longer anything for them on the outs. All their childhood friends are in prison. Their whole family is in prison. What is the point in being released? Its fucked up like that. I mean i seen dudes get sentenced to 175 years and start laughing, 99 years and start laughing, 150 years and laughing.


Not me thanks.

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i did. I moved about a year and a half ago the day i got released. I had to get out before my surroundings killed me. Its different tryna get used to a peaceful life again.


I had these wierd bouts of paranoia for some months that eveyone i met had some secret agenda against me. Slums are all good for nobody.

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Originally posted by mr.yuck

Slums are all good for nobody.



Where's your signature from?

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