An understaffed, poorly-designed prison in Ontario, Canada has been under close scrutiny over the past three years after a prisoner serving a 165-day sentence was bludgeoned to death on Halloween night by a possibly intoxicated cellmate with a history of violent attacks on other prisoners.
Adam Kargus, 29, was two weeks into his sentence for petty fraud at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) when investigators said he was fatally beaten by Anthony M. George, 28, on October 31, 2013.
After killing him, George allegedly wrapped Kargus in bed sheets and dragged his bloody body to the showers where guards found him the next morning.
George, who had reportedly beaten two prisoners at a jail in the nearby town of Sarnia in 2009, and was convicted in 2012 of attacking a man with brass knuckles during a home invasion, has since been charged with second-degree murder in Kargus’ death.
“I’ve been saying publicly for the last couple of years that someone is going to die if they don’t correct the situation. It is not a time when I am happy to be right,” said Kevin Egan, an attorney who represents both Kargus’ family and more than 100 former and current EMDC prisoners who want to sue Ontario over conditions at the facility.
For years, prisoner advocates and the local news media have called for the installation of more surveillance cameras at EMDC, as well as increased hiring and more frequent supervision of prisoners.
According to former guards and prisoners, EMDC’s design flaws – including blind spots and obstructed access to common areas in case of emergencies – prohibit guards from seeing what’s happening in the housing units.
After the 2009 beating death of another prisoner at EMDC, an inquest jury recommended, among other things, that the facility hire more employees and install more video cameras. It wasn’t until shortly before Kargus’ death, however, that over 300 cameras were finally installed.
Obviously, the surveillance cameras were not enough.
“I am still getting phone calls about people getting beaten up,” Egan said. “I don’t think having cameras there is a proactive approach to prevention. The inmates should be supervised. They should have eyes on the inmates. Catching them after the fact isn’t going to stop them from doing it.”
Represented by Egan, Kargus’ family filed a lawsuit against the province and several prison staff members, seeking $4.2 million. Shortly before what would have been Adam’s 32nd birthday, the case was settled for an undisclosed amount. All claims, except for the ones against Anthony George, were withdrawn.
“It is not the settlement we care about. We care about justice. We want to know why and what happened and we want whoever is responsible to be held accountable,” said Kargus’ brother, Shane.
In addition to the murder charge that George faces, prisoners Bradley Mielke, 51, and David Cake, 34, were charged as accessories after the fact. Cake was sentenced to eight months after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice for cleaning up the crime scene, while the charges against Mielke were eventually dropped in September 2015.
After the local police completed their investigation of EMDC staff in connection with Kargus’ death, prison guards Leslie Lonsbary, 47, and Gregory Langford, 55, as well as the facility’s operational manager, Stephen Jurkus, 52, were each charged in March 2014 with one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life. All three were fired, as were two other guards. Details of the criminal charges were not provided, and the charge against Langford was dropped in May 2015.
The London Free Press reported on January 11, 2016 that the upcoming trial against former prison employees Lonsbary and Jurkus may be the first of its kind in Canada. “There needs to be some accountability for the individual actions and systemic failures,” Egan said on behalf of Kargus’ family. “It’s the first time in Canada that prison authorities have been committed to stand trial on that charge.” No trial date has been scheduled yet.
Sources: The London Free Press, www.ctvnews.ca, www.lfpress.com, www.ourlondon.ca
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