‘Ottawa’ Inmate Who Gave Birth in Segregation cell Among Speakers at Forum on Ottawa Jail
An inmate who gave birth in a segregation cell at Ottawa’s jail is among a group of speakers scheduled to appear at a public forum trying to find solutions for the city’s troubled jail.
Julie Bilotta is among several inmates, doctors, lawyers, health experts and advocates scheduled to speak Thursday at the forum hosted by Mothers Offering Mutual Support (MOMS) and the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project at Ottawa’s city hall starting at 6 p.m.
Bilotta’s son, Gionni Lee Garlow, was born on a mattress on the floor of a segregation cell on Sept. 29, 2012. Bilotta alleges the jail birth occurred after staff ignored her screams and pleas to be taken to a hospital.
Gionni, who spent eight days in hospital following his birth, died suddenly a little more than a year later after suffering from respiratory problems. The cause of death wasn’t known at the time Bilotta filed a $1.3-million lawsuit that accused the province, the jail’s superintendent, five nurses, 11 correctional officers and two other unidentified employees of the detention centre of negligence.
The birth drew national attention to the jail and sparked protests over the treatment of prisoners, but it’s only now, after the Citizen reported that inmates were being housed in shower stalls, that the province has taken action.
Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi immediately banned the practice of using shower cells, dismissed the jail’s superintendent, and appointed a task force to come up with short- and long-term solutions for overcrowding by June 1. Naqvi is also scheduled to speak briefly at the forum Thursday.
A member of the MOMS group is among those on the task force and hopes that solutions proposed at the forum will be considered.
“It is important for the community to stand up and be heard, and for those with solutions to step forward and put their ideas on the table, right now, when those with the responsibility and the authority to fix OCDC say they are listening,” said Irene Mathias of MOMS Ottawa.
Other speakers at the forum are expected to include:
— Dr. Wendy Muckle, co-founder and director of Ottawa Inner City Health
— Dr. Helen Ward, forensic psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Hospital who was instrumental in spearheading the creation of the Mental Health Court in Ottawa
— Dr. Claire Kendall, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES)
— Abby Deshman, director of the Public Safety Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and co-author of a seminal report on Canada’s broken bail system
— Sean Leblanc, from the Drug Users Advocacy League (DUAL)
— Ottawa-based criminal lawyers Paolo Giancaterino and Michael Spratt
— Members of MOMS Ottawa
— Dr. Justin Piché, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa