LONDON, Ont. Unprecedented charges against three correctional workers in the death of a inmate in London, Ont., could change the landscape of the corrections system.
"If there is a finding of guilt . . . every facility will be re-examining its procedures and training to make sure the same thing isn't going to happen there," Western University sociologist Paul Whitehead said. "The outcome will make a difference in terms of what's done in the future, whether it involves (jail) design issues, supervision and training or staffing issues."
Two guards and one operational manager at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) were charged Wednesday with failing to provide the necessaries of life in the slaying of inmate Adam Kargus.
No one, including the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services ,remembers jailers facing such charges before in Ontario.
The potential impact of the charges is "enormous," said Kevin Egan, a lawyer representing Kargus' family and more than 100 ex-inmates with legal claims against EMDC.
"Now these individuals are becoming personally liable and so it should be an impetus to do things right or make appropriate complaints if they think they can't," he said.
Already, officers across Ontario will feel the chill of the charges as they try to do a tough job, said Don Ford, spokesperson for the guards' union, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
"It will always be in the back of their mind now that if something does happen in the facility they could wind up being charged for it."
The explosive charges come after a police investigation including the decisions made by correctional staff before Kargusf death.
"We'd look at all that information why they were each in custody and why they were in that range, why they were housed together. We looked at everything," London police Det. Insp. Kevin Heslop said.
Heslop confirmed the police investigation included video surveillance, claims that EMDC was short-staffed and that guards didn't do regular checks the night Kargus was killed.
New allegations also surfaced in the probe: That the man accused of killing Kargus was seen drunk on jail brew and violent in the hours beforehand, and that another inmate dropped a note out of his cell during the beating asking officers to help Kargus.
Kargus, 29, of Sarnia, was serving time for using false ID to get tax refunds and cell phones. He was put in a cell with Anthony Maurice George, 28, of Sarnia, who had a history of violence against other inmates.
Sources say George had been transferred from Sarnia Jail, where he was segregated due to his violent nature, but put into the general population at EMDC.
Kargus was beaten to death Oct. 31, his body dragged into the showers the next morning.
George was charged with second-degree murder and two other inmates were charged with accessory after the fact.
Wednesday, London police announced the charges against EMDC corrections officer Leslie Lonsbary, 47, corrections officer Gregory Langford, 55, and operational manager Stephen Jurkus, 52.
Jurkus and Lonsbary could not be reached for comment. Langford declined to comment when reached at home.
All three are suspended from duty with pay, the province said.
The men face a maximum sentence of five years.