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Dec 15, 2013

Former inmates tell of 'fight nights,' beatings at Ontario jailRANDY RICHMOND | QMI AGENCY

LONDON, Ont. — Two former inmates involved in a $325-million lawsuit against Ontario alleged Tuesday that hardened criminals run the show at a provincial jail where “fight nights” and abuse are rampant.

Michael Smith said he was sentenced to four days at London’s Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre for mischief, then got his cheek slashed from jawbone to mouth.

Glenn Johnson said during his nine months for break and enter, he was sprayed with urine, forced to hand over food and medication and gang-beaten for not participating in the inmate-run fight nights.

“Some days I wish I was dead when I was there,” he said.

The pair spoke out Tuesday in support of a class-action lawsuit against the province.

“Evil is growing like a weed at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre,” lawyer Kevin Egan said at a news conference.

The lawsuit claims the province has failed to properly ensure the health and safety of inmates at the troubled provincial jail plagued with overcrowding, violence and unsanitary conditions.

Egan has been fighting since the 2009 death of Londoner Randy Drysdale at EMDC for improvements to the jail, and his collection of complaints from more than 100 former inmates led to a class-action suit.

Smith went to jail July 9, 2012, after throwing a cellphone and kicking a car during a dispute with his wife.

“As soon as I got in there I knew something wasn’t right,” Smith said. “The guards were telling me that this was not a normal place, (that) the inmates have rules; they’re posted on the walls.”

Two other men went onto the range with him, but the inmates told the guards they didn’t want them, Smith said.

“The guards didn’t question it. They just took them out. It was like they were being told what to do.”
Smith said he asked the other inmates if he could use the phone.

“They just started screaming … ‘Did anybody tell you to speak? Are you supposed to speak?’ ”

He picked up the phone anyway, he said, and a gang of inmates rushed him and he woke up on the washroom floor, his cheek sliced open by a shard from a hard plastic tray.

Johnson said he was beaten several times while at EMDC.

“EMDC, it’s hell, it’s hell. They have Friday fight nights. They pick two guys and they (say) you got to fight. If you don’t fight you’re going to get the crap kicked out of you by the rest of the guys.”

Johnson and another inmate refused, and were beaten for it.

Johnson says he also had urine thrown on him and his food and medications taken.

Many of the incidents are covered up, he says.

“You get beat up they take you to the hospital and say ‘Oh you slipped in the shower,'” Johnson said.

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