Pubdate: Wed, 03 Oct 2012
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 The Windsor Star
Author: Trevor Wilhelm


Inmate was to be sentenced in stabbing

An inmate's death after a suspected drug overdose at Windsor Jail has
her lawyer raising questions about possible negligence and the tide of
contraband narcotics flowing into the institution.

Kendra Blackbird's cause of death has not been officially confirmed.
But sources told The Star the inmate died after overdosing on drugs
that were smuggled into the jail.

Neil Rooke, Blackbird's lawyer, couldn't confirm that Tuesday. But he
said illegal drugs and other contraband in the jail is an ongoing problem.

"I think one of the largest concerns - and I think this would be
shared by Windsor Jail as well as the authorities - is contraband
being accessible at the Windsor Jail and what if anything can be done
to diminish that," said Rooke.

"You don't want to see illicit and illegal drugs making their way into
the jail. It's fair to say that it happens. It's a concern for all of
us. It's a concern for judges, Crowns, Windsor police, RCMP, it's a
concern for everyone involved in the criminal justice system."

Blackbird, 34, in jail awaiting sentencing after stabbing someone on a
city bus, died early Monday in the intensive care unit at Hotel-Dieu
Grace Hospital. She was initially found unresponsive in her cell. An
autopsy has been ordered.

Sources told The Star it's believed Blackbird died after taking drugs
smuggled into the jail by an intermittent inmate - someone who serves
time on weekends and lives in the community during the week. Jail
superintendent David Marsh referred all questions to the Ministry of
Community Safety and Correctional Services. A ministry spokesman
wouldn't comment on details of the incident.

By deadline Tuesday, the ministry also had not answered general
questions about protocols the jail uses to deal with known drug users
or what measures are in place to stop those serving intermittent
sentences from bringing in contraband.

Jennifer Kerr, spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Coroner, said
there is a mandatory investigation when someone dies in custody.

But if the prisoner dies of natural causes, she said, a coroner's
inquest is not mandatory. Kerr said the rule making an inquest
automatic when someone dies in custody recently changed because of the
number of seniors dying of natural causes behind bars.

Until a cause of death is confirmed, Kerr said, it's unknown if there
will be an inquest into Blackbird's death. She wouldn't comment on
whether there would be an inquest in the case of a drug overdose.

Windsor police are also investigating. They were called to the jail
just before 8 p.m. Saturday for an unresponsive woman. Paramedics also
arrived and did CPR before taking her to the intensive care unit at
Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital.

Rooke learned early Monday that Blackbird had died.

"She was taken off life support and passed away at 3:30 in the
morning," he said. "From a personal level, Kendra was a mother, a
daughter, a partner and she'll be missed by her family. It's a tragedy
that someone of her young age passes away at all."

Blackbird was arrested in June following a dramatic confrontation on a
Transit Windsor bus. The stabbing occurred after Blackbird's boyfriend
got into an argument with another passenger. When Blackbird heard what
happened, she boarded the bus and stabbed the other passenger in the

Her sentencing was scheduled for Tuesday. Assistant Crown attorney
Jane Magri appeared in court Tuesday morning, in front of Justice
Lloyd Dean, to withdraw the charges.

"I know she had family," said Dean. "We should all pray for her
family." Outside court, Rooke echoed that sentiment.

"My heart goes out to her family," he said. "I know her mother had
passed away some time ago but she has her father, her common law
spouse. She had people that loved her and cared for her and they're
left to pick up the pieces and my heart goes out to them."

Jason Haney, president of the Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre of
Windsor, said Blackbird also leaves behind three children. They are
one, three and 13 years old. He said Blackbird, originally from
Walpole Island, was well known and well liked at the Can-Am centre and
in the local First Nations community.

"I can tell you she was an active member of our community, and she was
the mother of three beautiful children," said Haney. "It's definitely
sad to see her meet such an untimely death. Our heartfelt condolences
definitely go out to her family members, especially her children. I
think that's where it's going to hurt the most."

Haney said his organization had a couple of caseworkers assigned to
help Blackbird. But he wouldn't comment on her drug use or any
concerns over her care at the jail.

"We all have our issues and we do have programs to try and help get
through these issues," said Haney.

"Sometimes the issue's overcome. It was definitely unfortunate to hear
about her being in jail to begin with. But it's definitely a shock to
us that she passed away in jail."

Rooke, who had another client die at Windsor Jail in 2010, said his
best hope at this point is that Blackbird's death could not have been
prevented. "That's the best case scenario for everyone, that this was
an act of God, so to speak, as opposed to human error or human
negligence," said Rooke.

"If the death was preventable, obviously it will upset me more than if
it were something that was an act of nature, something that no human
intervention could have prevented. I think for everyone's peace of
mind, that's got to be the hope, that it wasn't through human error or
human negligence that this death occurred."
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