The fate of the 90-year-old jail where Adam Capay languished for years in solitary confinement remains uncertain as the Ontario government studies a plan to replace the facility made under the previous Liberal regime.
Mr. Capay was granted a stay of his first-degree murder charge on Monday, a rare decision that set the 26-year-old Lac Seul First Nation man free from custody without trial as a remedy for multiple Charter breaches during his time in pretrial custody.
The nature of those breaches is covered by a publication ban, but The Globe and Mail has reported extensively on the conditions Mr. Capay grappled with at Thunder Bay Jail, including 24/7 lighting, cells covered with Plexiglas and little access to Indigenous or mental-health services as he was in solitary confinement for 4½ years.
Correctional officers told The Globe that Mr. Capay’s plight in solitary confinement could have been avoided with adequate staffing levels and a building suitable for housing mentally ill inmates.
“Due to the limitations of that building, there was nowhere else to put him but segregation,” former Thunder Bay Jail correctional officer Mike Lundy said on Tuesday. “We had no staff to give him mandated rights.”
The Liberals heeded those calls and announced funding for a new jail in May, 2017.
In March of the following year, Infrastructure Ontario issued a request for companies interested in designing, building and maintaining a 325-bed correctional centre with an aim of improving access “to programming, living conditions and education, while also updating automation and technology.”
Since the provincial election in June, 2018, however, local officials have heard little to suggest the new Progressive Conservative government will sustain the commitment.
“We have concerns and fears with new government in power that they could go back on that commitment,” said Mr. Lundy, who now works at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre where he’s vice-president of the union local. “The Liberals had an architect come in and models made. Since the PCs took power, we have heard nothing.”
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services did not provide comment on Tuesday on the fate of the Thunder Bay Jail.
A ministry source told The Globe there are no plans to scrap the jail replacement, but that all possible cost-cutting measures are under review.
Mr. Lundy was the correctional officer who blew the whistle on Mr. Capay’s treatment at Thunder Bay Jail, informing chief human-rights commissioner Renu Mandhane that she should demand to see Mr. Capay during a jail tour in October, 2016. After interviewing Mr. Capay, she told the media how his lengthy term in solitary confinement had begun to hinder his capacity for speech.
Mr. Lundy said the union pressured the ministry to hire more staff for the facility following a riot in 2015, and again following revelations about Mr. Capay’s imprisonment. “After the Capay stuff came out, we had a few positions added to our segregation area, but we needed much more,” he said. “Thunder Bay Jail is still struggling to get things done on a day-to-day basis. The staffing model hasn’t changed there in 40 years.”
It wouldn’t be the first time the provincial government has scrapped plans to replace the imposing, neo-Gothic jail. The Progressive Conservative government under Mike Harris announced plans to replace the jail in the early 2000s, but nothing came of them.
“Everyone acknowledges we need a new one,” Mr. Lundy said. “We get close and then we get turned back.”
The provincial government also continues to mull its response to the stay of proceedings in the Capay case. It has until Feb. 27 to appeal. In the meantime, the Crown is applying for a peace bond, but declined to offer reasoning. “As this matter is within the appeal period, it would inappropriate to comment,” Ministry of Attorney-General spokesman Brian Gray said in an e-mailed statement.