Canadian Consulting Engineer

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Inmates wrecking fire protection systems at new Toronto “superjail”


An article in the Globe and Mail on August 1 reports that a spanking new “flagship” superjail in Toronto is having to overhaul its fire safety plan after inmates have found it too easy to damage the systems.

The article by Patrick White says that fire crews have had to rush to calls at the Toronto South Detention Centre in Mimico south of the Gardiner Expressway more than 70 times from January to May this year. Since it opened in January 2014 fire crews have been called out 143 times.

The $600-million new jail was designed to hold 1,650 inmates in its maximum security wing, and 320 inmates serving weekends in another wing. However, it is currently operating at half-capacity, and due to staff shortages it has had frequent lockdowns. Its infirmary and gymnasium have remained closed.

The article says that the jail was “beset by a series of design flaws leading to shattered windows, cracked floors, malfunctioning cell doors, glitchy computer hardware and damaged locks.” However, the province says it has corrected many of these problems.

The ongoing issue with fire alarms is said to be partly because the sprinklers and alarms have been placed within easy reach of the inmates. They are climbing on toilets and onto sinks to break the equipment, which signals a call to the fire department.

“Other inmates have figured out that blowing powdered milk into the smoke-detection equipment triggers an alarm,” says the article.

The Toronto South Detention Centre was built to replace the Toronto Don Jail, the Toronto West Detention Centre, and the Mimico Correctional Centre, upon whose site the new jail was built.

To read the article, click here.