Another gruesome chapter was added to the legend of Toronto's Don Jail on the weekend as an inmate died under suspicious circumstances - the second such death in the past two months.
The inmate - 24-year-old Kevon Phillip - died in hospital shortly after being found unconscious in his cell on Saturday afternoon.
Toronto Police Service homicide officers gave no cause of death and would only say that an autopsy was to be conducted on Mr. Philip today.
His death followed that of a 31-year-old man - Jeffrey Munro - who was apparently killed on Nov. 6 in a dispute over a bag of potato chips.
Yesterday, Mr. Munro's mother, Christine Munro, condemned correctional officials for operating a substandard facility where violence is the norm. "It absolutely saddens and sickens me that this has happened again," she said in an interview. "I don't care why a person is in jail - everyone has a right to be safe."
A professional dancer who worked on cruise ships, Mr. Munro became addicted to drugs seven years ago. Ms. Munro said that he ended up living in youth hostels and mental health facilities around Toronto, where he repeatedly tried to kick his habit.
Mr. Munro was picked up the day before his death for a suspected breach of probation, his mother said. She said that he was bullied throughout the day of his death, culminating in him being kicked and punched as he lay on his cell bunk.
"This kind of thing should not happen," Ms. Munro said. "Nobody is giving me any answers. It is as if somebody is just trying to sweep it under the carpet. My son should have been safe. He should still be here."
Days after Mr. Munro died, another inmate - Kevin Pereira - barely survived a brutal beating at the Don Jail.
Located in the heart of Toronto - just east of the Don River - the overcrowded, dingy jail has been slated for closure several times.
Paul Calarco, a veteran Toronto defence lawyer, said that the jail is a disgrace. "It fails to meet United Nations mandated standards for the treatment of prisoners," Mr. Calarco said yesterday. "This is completely unacceptable in a wealthy country like Canada.
"Correctional officers are not to blame for the level of violence that plagues the jail," he added. "They are thrown into an impossible situation. They are forced to just keep watch on a volatile situation. The result is more lockdowns and frustration amongst prisoners."
Frank Addario, past president of the Criminal Lawyers' Association, said that sentencing judges began to acknowledge harsh conditions at the Don several years ago by granting defendants three days off their sentences for every day they spent in it.
"It would be more satisfactory to have decent facilities that recognize the presumption of innocence before trial," Mr. Addario said. "It is legendary for overcrowding, tuberculosis and violence."