The poor conditions at the Sudbury Jail prompted a Sudbury judge to give an accused enhanced credit for the time he spent behind bars waiting for his case to be resolved.
“The Sudbury Jail was designed about 100 years ago and it does not meet the needs of many people who frequent it in today’s world,” Ontario Court Justice Heather-Ann Mendes said in issuing a two-for-one credit to Jake Deschamps for stabbing.
Inmates at the Sudbury Jail usually get 1.5 days of credit at sentencing for every day they spend in custody. This is because the jail does not have the same programs available to help inmates that have been sentenced to federal prisons.
Deschamps, who had pleaded guilty assault with a weapon and two counts of breach of probation, was looking at a nine-month sentence and two-year probation order.
The Crown and defence lawyer Michael Haraschuk suggested the punishment.
It was the issue of Deschamps’ pre-custody credit, however, that the Crown and Haraschuk disagreed.
Assistant Crown attorney Matthew Caputo argued the pre-custody credit should just be credited at the usual 1.5-to-one and only for the time in custody following Deschamps’ arrest for stabbing a friend.
“I would argue very strongly the offences he is being sentenced on have no relation to time he spent in custody on the other (earlier) charges,” Caputo told Justice Mendes via teleconference.
Deschamps, who had been in custody shortly after an alleged robbery and assault on Dec. 2, got bail on April 20. He was re-arrested after just seven days of freedom for the stabbing.
Haraschuk said Deschamps, who suffers from mental health issues and had spent a considerable amount of time in segregation due to threats and assaults (one of which involved a pencil being shoved through Deschamps’ mouth), and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March that shut down programming at the jail until early July, caused Deschamps a great deal of stress.
“This jail is 90 years old,” he said via teleconference. “It has not been configured to meet the needs of inmates either in lockdown or segregation. It is not a possibility …
“This is a man who suffers from mental health issues. It exemplifies the situation. The time for him has been very hard … There needs to be a jail built in Sudbury for persons with mental health issues that have adequate rooms for them to stay in. It’s just not available. It hasn’t been available for 90 years. The conditions (at the Sudbury Jail) are just atrocious.”
Deschamps said he was sorry for stabbing a good friend with a steak knife on April 27. He said when he visited the apartment where he was supposed to be residing as a bail condition, he was trying to get away from drug use. He the friend was still in that lifestyle, he got into an argument and then lost his temper.
Deschamps broke down as he described his time at the Sudbury Jail.
“I was stabbed right through my mouth,” he said. “I’ve lost teeth. I have correctional officers blackening my name … It makes it hard to go through a day. I don’t want this for myself anymore.”
Deschamps said he is getting medication for his mental health issues, is on the methadone program, and enjoys thinking clearly now. He said he has come to terms with his inner demons from his childhood and has moved on.
“I have clinically been pronounced dead four times,” said Deschamps. “The good news is I’m 31 and I could still have a pretty good life if I turn it around right now … I want to get out. I’m really good at woodworking and I’d like to buy my half of my (former) business back. I want no more of this stupid stuff in the jail. “Every day it’s the same …
“I don’t crave the drugs anymore. I feel good. I feel I can move on now.”
Haraschuk, in addition to seeking two-to-one credit for time Deschamps spent at the jail during the coronavirus pandemic starting in mid-March, also sought to have time his client spent at the jail starting in early December on robbery and assault charges counted towards the nine-month sentence.
He said that’s because Deschamps did not seek bail on his new charges in April. There was no point and in the event he was later acquitted of the robbery and assault charges, that pre-custody credit time would disappear.
In her sentencing decision, Mendes accepted the joint sentencing submission she was given, but came up with a unique approach in how she dealt with the pre-custody credit issue.
She issued pre-custody credit of two-to-one for the time Deschamps spent at the jail from Dec. 5 to March 16, but gave the usual 1.5-to-one credit to the two periods Deschamps was incarcerated from March 17 to Friday.
Mendes said Deschamps was not the only person in custody during the coronavirus pandemic who had to deal with no programming, staff shortages and other issues the pandemic caused.
The end result of Mendes’ pre-custody credit rulings was that the 103 days Deschamps was in custody at the jail before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic became 206 days.
His 35 days in custody from March 17 to April 20 became 52.5 days.
Finally, Deschamps’ 117 days in custody from April 27 to Aug. 21 became 175.5 days.
The grand total was 434 days of pre-trial custody.
Since Deschamps’ nine-month sentence amounted to 270 days of jail, he ended up with 164 leftover days to use toward jail time in the event he is convicted of his robbery and assault charges from December.
But while Deschamps’ essentially received a one-day jail, time served penalty, he did not get his freedom Friday.
That’s because one of his sureties for the April 20 bail release withdrew in May. Caputo also sought to keep Deschamps in custody as Friday’s three convictions had an impact on the April 20 bail release.
Consequently, Deschamps will remain in custody, his next court date being Tuesday in confirmation court concerning the Dec. 5 charges. A preliminary hearing on those charges will follow starting Sept. 1.
“So much for going home,” lamented Deschamps, upset with not getting released. “I thought I was going to see my daughter today.”
The issue of the poor conditions at the Sudbury Jail has surfaced before. In August 2016, defence lawyer Renee Gregor dropped a bomb at the start of the sentencing hearing for a sex offender who had sexual relations with his underage stepdaughter over a six-year period.
Citing bad conditions at the Sudbury Jail that included mice, mold, overcrowding and poor air quality, Gregor sought to win her client pre-trial custody credit of three-to-one, well above the usual 1.5-to-one credit.
After several days of witness testimony and a visit to the jail by court officials, Superior Court Justice Robbie Gordon issued a seven-year sentence to the accused, but stopped short of the extra credit Gregor was seeking,
If Gordon had agreed, he would have given the man, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, about six years’ credit towards his sentence, because he had spent two years in pre-trial custody.
Instead, Gordon gave the man a total of 46.5 months, consisting of 25 months at a 1.5 to 1 credit, plus a nine-month additional credit. That left the man with a little more than three years, left to serve as a penitentiary term.
The case became informally known around the Sudbury Courthouse as “the Gordon decision” and was frequently cited by other local defence lawyers seeking additional pre-custody credit for their clients