Jail no place for the mentally ill, inquest hears

OTTAWA On December 17, Jury recommendations were released from the coroner’s inquest into the death of a Killaloe man who died in Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) in 2017.

All parties to the inquest agreed that Cas Geddes should not have been at the OCDC in the first place.

When someone dies in custody in Ontario, there is a mandatory inquest. In this case, Dr. Michael B. Wilson, presiding coroner, expanded the scope of the inquest from the circumstances that led to Geddes’ death at the jail, to include his arrest by the OPP in Killaloe and his journey through the court in Pembroke.

Had decisions been different at any of those locations there may have had a different outcome.

Wilson said the tragedy had deeply affected many people; the family, members of the community, healthcare workers, police officers, court officials and jail officers. All the professionals involved in the case were doing their work conscientiously.

The Geddes family was represented at the inquest by lawyer Paul Champ. In his closing arguments Champ said that on the day Cas was arrested, he was in crisis from his illness.

“He was very ill and vulnerable,” Champ said. “Cas deserved a hospital bed.”

Irene Mathias, is a spokesperson for Mothers Offering Mutual Support (MOMS), an Ottawa-based support group for women who have loved ones in conflict with the legal system.

Outside the inquest she said, “This tragic and unnecessary event epitomizes all the reasons why we are warehousing those suffering poor mental health in correctional institutions. It’s wrong, reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible and it’s cruel.”

This tragic story has been described as a stark illustration of how we warehouse those experiencing mental health episodes in jails because of the lack of mental healthcare resources in the province.

Sadly, it is a tragedy that could happen to anyone.

To read the full story, pick up a copy of the December 19, 2018 Valley Gazette or subscribe online.

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