By: Jenan Nasser
On Nov. 22, 2014, a devastating incident occurred in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre on Barton Street. An inmate, Rocky Ganesh, was brutally attacked by his cellmate. Rocky was beaten so viciously he slipped into a coma which lasted for weeks and resulted in severe brain trauma. His doctors are not predicting a full recovery.
Ganesh now lives at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre in the Hamilton General Hospital, unable to cognitively cope with the traumatic experiences he has been through. The mother of the assaulted victim, Sharda Ganesh, is seeking redress for the assault, claiming that there is not enough protection for inmates. Sharda suggests a provincial-wide revamping of cellmate provisions, which would segregate those who are known to be aggressive or have had past aggressive episodes with their cellmates, from those who have no such prior episodes.
The Hamilton-Wentworth Detention centre has had previous incidents in which prison security has proven to be insufficient, and the treatment of inmates has been inhumane. Due to the lack of security personnel, the prisoners have become aggressive towards authority on more than one occasion.
A convicted rapist was transferred from the detention centre for gassing a security guard after being confined in his cell for an extended duration because of the lack of staff on duty that day. A correctional officer at Wentworth explains that if Canadian prisons had more funding and greater attention was paid to the living conditions, they wouldn’t have to worry as much about the safety of their officers or the inmates themselves.
Due to the lack of resources, prisons are becoming more dangerous and less humane. Although prisons exist to confine criminals and law offenders, they should not be subjecting them to cruel conditions similar to those Rocky Ganesh endured. Sharda Ganesh told reporters that she wonders why the jail has enough resources to send two officers to guard Rocky by his bedside, now that he can’t move, but they weren’t there when he actually needed them.
This problem is a common one in Canada. With growing numbers of prisoners and the lack of government funding to accommodate them, a tragic incident like this could occur again. Whether people believe these inmates have a right to security is an old argument, however I believe that these inmates’ rights to life are being infringed upon. Although prisons are in place to restrict convicted felons, they are also in place to protect our rights as free abiders of the law. If living conditions worsen, not only have the constitutional rights of inmates been infringed upon but the safety and privileged freedom that we currently enjoy will also be compromised.
The money being spent on extra staff for hospital security and other fees for assault victims within the jail could be better put to use for greater staffing and larger facilities. There is no question that the prison system is flawed and can be a dangerous place, but fearing for your life or an unexpected ambush attack in the middle of the night should not be the reality of the lives of prisoners.