Inquest hears Thunder Bay jail crowded, understaffed when Indigenous artist died


A senior officer at a Thunder Bay jail is telling an inquest the facility was understaffed and overcrowded with inmates when a renowned Indigenous artist died at the jail.

Moses Beaver, of Nibinamik First Nation, was found unresponsive in his cell in February 2017 before being taken to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, where he was pronounced dead.

An inquest into the 56-year-old’s death began earlier this month and could make recommendations that include ways to improve mental health services in Thunder Bay’s jail and across remote First Nations.

Staff Sgt. Mark Dyrland, who works at the Thunder Bay jail, says the facility was understaffed around 2017, with only five employees running the entire jail on some days, and he as a supervisor had to serve meals and collect dishes at times so other staff members could take a break.

He says the number of inmates at the facility had been increasing and reached more than 200 inmates by 2016.

The inquest jury has heard that the death of Beaver, who had mental health issues and sought help, was attributed to hanging.



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