Friday, November 24, 2000

Marissa Nelson

Jury recommends inmate assessments

Correctional institutions should conduct a medical assessment of all new inmates with a history of mental illness, a coroner's jury has recommended.

The jury, looking into the death of Samuel Pirrera in February at the Toronto East Detention Centre, concluded that correctional facilities "must be held accountable."

The jury made six recommendations yesterday after a three-day inquest into the suicide of the 32-year-old Hamilton man.

It found that the cause of death was narcotic toxicity. The jury heard evidence that Mr. Pirrera had either overdosed on morphine or heroin.

At the time of his death, Mr. Pirrera was in jail, negotiating a plea bargain for two murder charges.

He was accused of murdering his first wife, Beverly Anne Davidson, who disappeared in 1991, and prostitute Maggie Karer, who was found hacked to pieces in April, 1999.

Mr. Pirrera was found dead 24 hours after arriving at the detention centre, having been transferred from Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee, Ont.

A prison nurse found him, holding a pear that had been distributed as a snack.

He was suspected of smuggling the drugs he used to take his life into the centre in his anus.

"That's the only way he could have," Toronto Police Detective Constable Colin Sinclair said. "Quinte detention is No. 1 in the country for drugs."

The coroner's jury recommended that the Ministry of Corrections study the availability of illegal drugs in their institutions, with a view to eradicating the problem.

The jury also recommended that the ministry adopt a system to ensure potentially life-threatening medication doesn't get into the hands of inmates.

It made this recommendation because it felt that medications have become an commodity in penal institutions.

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Created: November 26, 2000
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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