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HomeNews100 Mile HousePublic Inquest into death of prisoner near 100 Mile now in the...

Public Inquest into death of prisoner near 100 Mile now in the hands of a jury

   The testimony wrapped up yesterday (Thursday) at a public inquest in Prince George that is looking into the death of a prisoner who died during transport on Highway 97 near 100 Mile House.
   Witnesses included other inmates who were being transported along with 36-year Alexander Charles Joseph, family members, two corrections officers that were in the vehicle, Williams Lake RCMP Corporal Rick Meaver, officers, and the Deputy Warden at the Prince George Regional Correctional Centre.
   The five member jury heard how the audio system wasn’t working in the vehicle on October 4th, 2018, but that the video was.
   Corrections Officers Bruce Cox and James Brown both testified that a frisk wasn’t done on the inmates before they got into the vehicle, although they believed that one was done earlier by the tactical team that transported them from cells.
   Another inmate testified that he saw Joseph take something into his mouth, later determined to be drugs, and that he became sleepy and lied down on the floor.
   Both corrections officers noted however that it was not uncommon for inmates to sleep on the floor during long transports, especially when they were sharing a unit as there wasn’t a lot of room.
   Some of the inmates also testified that they were banging and trying to get the officers attention.
   Corrections Officer Brown, who was the co-pilot who was watching the video of the compartments as Cox drove, said they couldn’t hear anything adding that the engine on this big vehicle was very loud and that there was 6 to 8 inches of steel in between the box and the cab.
   Brown said that he didn’t see anything on the cameras until they were outside of Williams Lake.
   They had stopped briefly at the Tim Hortons and he said it just after they left that one of the inmates was pointing towards one of the compartments.
   He said Cox tapped on the brakes after he alerted him, but then the inmate sat down.
   Brown said it was about a half hour out of Williams Lake when an inmate made an animated gesture and that he knew something was wrong.
   He said they then got permission from the Prince George Corrections Centre to pull over and check the inmates, adding that there already happened to be an RCMP cruiser on scene.
   Both Brown and Cox said they were only permitted to open the doors in a secure location and with permission.
   Brown said they opened the door to the box to find Joseph in the fetal position on the ground.
   He said he did a mouth sweep and checked Joseph’s airwave before administering CPR.
   RCMP administered Naloxone, as they didn’t have any back then, but Joseph was unresponsive.
   The Coroner will charge the jury later on this (Friday) morning and they will then make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.
   Several recommendations have already been implemented following an internal review that was done.
   Testimony wrapped up yesterday with Steve DiCastre, the Warden Responsible for Provincial Initiatives, going over some of the changes that have already been made.
   Those included new search regulations that include strip searches and scans prior to transport, video checks at defined intervals, and equipping the vehicles with naloxone.
   DiCastre, who rode in the back of the Z-class vehicle that was used in this case himself for the first time in 36 years, agreed that they were uncomfortable, noisy and smelled.
   He also agreed that a few stops along the way in a safe place such as an RCMP Detachment would be a “human thing to do.”
   DiCastre said however, that while he agreed it would be reasonable to stop and allow prisoners a chance to stretch their legs and to check on their well being, every 45 minutes likely wouldn’t work on some trips as they can’t stop on the open road due to potential security issues.
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