Criminal Law

Basic human rights not being considered: Gadhia

Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says the difficulties prisoners have in taking care of their basic hygiene needs is just one of the many issues facing Canada’s justice system.

“People’s basic human rights aren’t being considered,” she tells The Lawyers Weekly.

“The client has the right to a shower and to be clean and presentable in front of a jury of his peers. That’s a fundamental right. When there’s the presumption of innocence for people on trial, you’d think they’d be treated better,” she tells the legal trade publication.

The article focuses on the chronic understaffing and prisoner overcrowding at Ontario jails, as well as the impact of all-too-frequent lockdowns. It also raises concerns about a lack of basic human rights for both prisoners and those awaiting trial.

The issue of personal hygiene rights in provincial jails was recently highlighted by a Brampton, Ont. judge who ordered the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton to allow an inmate a shave and shower before appearing in court for a preliminary hearing.

“The ruling came after Justice Bruce Duncan discovered that a man facing murder charges had not been able to take care of his most basic personal hygiene needs on a regular basis in the days leading up to his first appearance in court, because the jail facility had been on lockdown, a frequent occurrence,” says The Lawyers Weekly.

Gadhia recently had to obtain a court order for her client to access a change of clothing every morning at the courthouse.

She says inmates have dealt with disgusting conditions and she notes trouble is brewing at these institutions.

“It’s a ticking time bomb. At some point, inmates who aren’t properly medicated and aren’t getting basic human rights are going to get angry and frustrated. If you get enough people like that, it’s going to cause a problem,” she says.

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