Uprising at Thunder Bay Jail District, Ontario

Uprising at Thunder Bay Jail District, Ontario

Thunder Bay Jail District, Ontario, Canada
December 7, 2015

Thunder Bay Jail on the night of the riot in 2015 (Photo Source: the chronicle-journal/jeff labine).

At least 70 prisoners take control of the top floor of the jail and leave it “destroyed.” They take a guard hostage and make demands in a riot that lasts over 12 hours. Eventually, tactical units from several cities respond to the riot and regain control of the prison.

Citing OPSEU Local 737 president Mike Lundy, Thunder Bay News Watch wrote:

Grill gate doors were destroyed, heaters were ripped off of walls and glass was smashed. The ministry said cameras and lights were also smashed. Lundy said weapons were used and threats were made in a coordinated effort by the inmates that he suspects was well-planned for some time….

Lundy said officers at the jail have been warning the ministry for years that something like this was going to happen because of overcrowding, no yard time, visitation restrictions and a lack of programming. The century-old building is also hasn’t had its staffing model updated in 35 years.

“They’re frustrated. They’re angry,” he said of the inmates.

Lundy said he puts blame for the riot squarely on the ministry.

“This is on you. This is on them. Every institution we tell them that these problems are going to come and they seem to ignore us,” he said.

“I’m frustrated with the smoke and mirrors show.”

The wife of a guard at the prison wrote in The Chronicle Journal:

There are approximately 2,000 job vacancies thanks to hiring freezes that have been in place for over three years.

As many as three inmates are being placed in cells with one sleeping on the floor. In a jail built to house 70 inmates there are that many on just one of the two floors of the jail. Thanks to the understaffing, there are no staff available to facilitate inmate programming, yard time, or visits with their families.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has been made aware of these deficiencies on numerous occasions and has been warned that incidents like this one would occur if changes weren’t made. Nothing has been done. The ministry has not done its due diligence to ensure the safety and security of the staff and inmates in institutions across the province. This is gross negligence on their part.

Just five months after the riot, the Provincial Government of Ontario announced that it would be closing Thunder Bay Jail.

A segregation cell at Thunder Bay Jail (Photo Source: Independent Review of Ontario Corrections).

UPDATE: Prison riot destroys jail’s top floor, correctional officer confirms,” Thunder Bay News Watch, December 8, 2015.

Thunder Bay jail on lockdown after hostage-taking,” CBC, December 8, 2016.

Accused sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter, jail riot charges,” Thunder Bay News Watch, May 20, 2016.

Notorious Thunder Bay jail will be replaced, province announces,” Sudbury.com, May 5, 2017.