Pubdate: Fri, 07 Nov 2014
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Molly Hayes
Page: A3


Brantford inmate died unnoticed on floor of cell after overdosing

Robert Clause was awaiting trial for the murder of a Hamilton man when
he overdosed and died on the floor of his cell at the Brantford Jail
in 2011.

In 2012, one of the correctional officers who had been working the
night of his death took his own life, leaving a note for the inmate's
family, apologizing for their loss.

"That's not what his family wanted," his family's lawyer, Sarah Dubois
Dover, said Thursday outside the Brantford Superior Courthouse, where
an inquest is being conducted into the 33-year-old Six Nations man's

As the inquest into his death wrapped up, and as the jury now
deliberates which systemic recommendations should be made to prevent
any more deaths in Ontario jails, the family waits anxiously.

More than anything, they want answers. But they are desperate to see
change. They don't want another family to go through the pain of
losing a loved one in custody.

It will be a tall task. Since the start of the inquest at the
courthouse Oct. 27, another Brantford inmate - Kyle Dean Sandy, 27,
also from Six Nations - has died. And another inquest is already on
the horizon into four drug-related deaths at Hamilton's Barton jail
the past two years.

"The problem of drugs in the Brantford Jail is not unique to the
Brantford Jail," said Dubois Dover.

For that reason - and because the Brantford Jail is slated to close -
officials are looking for fixes that will work across the board,
including at Hamilton's Barton jail. Changes such as improvements to
addictions training and communication within the jail. Another
possibility is creating a system for tracking non-fatal overdoses.

In two weeks of testimony, Dubois Dover said they heard "unguarded
testimony" from inmates and correctional officers that jails are "full
of " drugs - and addiction is the main health concern for inmates
across the province.

The five-person jury heard final submissions - including a list of 18
possible recommendations - from counsel for the Ministry of
Correctional Services, the Coroner's office and Clause's family, as
well as a doctor who assessed the inmate who is believed to have
smuggled the drugs into the jail.

Clause's mother, Brenda, said she had to leave the room several times
as evidence was shared about her son's death. She is frustrated.

Clause was sharing a cell with two other inmates. One was in for
robbery of a pharmacy and had been assessed in hospital before being
brought to jail, after police suspected he'd hidden hundreds of stolen
opiate pills inside his rectum.

He was sent to the jail with the drugs still in his body. He was "dry
celled" - kept in a cell with no running water, so that anything
passed could be detected by guards - but that process was cut short
when the cell was needed for another inmate. He was then transferred
into a shared cell, where he distributed the drugs to other inmates,
including Clause.

Dubois Dover said the inquest heard how multiple correctional officers
walked by Clause's cell that night, seeing him laying on the floor,
motionless. All assumed he was sleeping. The next morning, he was
pronounced dead.

At the time of his death, Clause was awaiting trial for the murder of
Devon Gayle, 22, a Hamilton man whose body was found in the Grand
River in Brantford in December 2010. Gayle - who had an infant son -
was beaten to death with a steel bar and stabbed and slashed 27 times
after an argument about buying a car. Clause's girlfriend, Tara Carisa
Baker, 32, pleaded guilty to accessory to murder.

Clause had long suffered from addictions, his family says, and had
been in and out of jail. His mother remembers being in denial about
his struggles when he was young. She also remembers one of the first
times she heard he was in jail. "I thought 'OK, at least he's safe.'"
The jury will return with final recommendations on Monday, and they
will be forwarded by the chief coroner's office to the appropriate
ministries and agencies. The recommendations are not binding.
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