human rights / justice / prisoners' rights

Paraplegic describes Don hell

This article was written by Betsey Powell and appeared in the Toronto Star today.

This is appalling.   How can we justify treating human beings this way?

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Venkat Milligan describes his stay in the Toronto (Don) Jail two years ago as “crazy.”

The paralyzed man, who was stuck in a cell without his wheelchair, was forced to drag himself around and was often left sitting in his own waste for hours, according to a 19-page statement of claim.

The allegations, contained in a $17 million lawsuit against the province and jailhouse medical staff, claim Milligan suffered “humiliating” and negligent treatment while in custody at the Don, requiring him to be hospitalized for a year and a half after his release.

“They didn’t believe that my injury was real. They didn’t believe my paralysis. They didn’t know how to handle it either,” Milligan, 22, said Wednesday in an interview at the downtown office of his lawyer, Julian Falconer.

“This is one of the most horrendous examples of in-custody tortures I’ve ever seen,” added Falconer.

“While the treatment of inmates is not high on public radar, in the end, if you treat people like animals, how can you be surprised when, once released, they act like animals?”

Lawyers for the Ministry of the Attorney General and two doctors have denied all allegations made by Milligan. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The Crown states that at “all material times its servants, employees, officials and agents took all reasonable and appropriate care of the plaintiff,” reads the statement of defence filed in Ontario Superior Court by the Attorney General.

Dr. Michael Klar and Dr. Ernest Kerr, in their statement of defence, said Milligan was given “careful attention and monitoring” and that medical staff did “everything possible in the circumstances to see that Mr. Milligan was properly cared for.”

However, both the province and physicians have launched “crossclaims” against each other in the event a judge finds them liable for any damages, interest or costs.

The case is moving into the discovery stage at a time when the Gerrard St. E. jail is back in the spotlight after a second inmate in two months was killed there last weekend.

Milligan was locked up at the Don between October and December 2007 after Toronto police raided his apartment and charged him with drug possession.

“I made mistakes,” Milligan admits.

At the time, he was 19 and trying to adjust to life after a gunshot injury to his spine left him a paraplegic in the spring of 2007.

In his statement of claim, Milligan alleges he was not permitted to use his wheelchair inside his cell, leaving him to “bum” or slide his way around.

“They said my chair is a security risk and that I can make knives out of my chair or other people can make knives out of my chair,” says Milligan, who grew up in the west end.

The statement says Milligan was not given the use of appropriate catheter equipment, nor given the means to use the toilet or sink. He started suffering recurring bladder infections.

Because of “the resulting unsanitary conditions, Milligan developed three open pressure wounds that became infected with drug-resistant infection,” the statement says.

On Dec. 10, 2007, he was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital with a high fever and three open and infected wounds, one of which had penetrated to the bone, the document says. Milligan ended up spending 18 months there and underwent multiple surgical procedures.

Milligan says he was in good health before his time in custody, and used to play wheelchair basketball.

“They wanted me on the men’s team but because of my injuries I haven’t been able to sit in my chair for long periods of time.”

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One thought on “Paraplegic describes Don hell

  1. Hi Venkat,
    I’m so sorry to hear of you’re really disturbing time at the Don.
    I hope you win. I will pray for you.

    God bless you

    Dianne

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