The City of Terrace responded at yesterday’s regular council meeting to recommendations outlined in a coroner’s inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of Alyssa George who died in hospital after being found in medical distress in a local RCMP jail cell.
Council approved written responses 11 of the 16 recommendations which related to the city’s position as both the landlord of the RCMP detachment and employer of the guards who monitor people held in the cells.
“She fell through the cracks,” mayor Carol Leclerc said of George, who was a 25-year-old First Nations woman struggling with severe alcoholism, adding that if Terrace had a detox centre then people in her situation could be rehabilitated safely instead of ending up in RCMP cells.
George was arrested on outstanding warrants in Sept. 2013 and placed in cells only to found later in medical distress. Flown to Vancouver, she died later in hospital.
Investigating the possibility of constructing a detox facility is one recommendation council is acting on, having agreed to meet with the Northern Health Authority, the First Nations Health Authority and the health ministry, “to create a shared care plan that allows for a coordinated, collaborative approach to managing the needs of at risk individuals.”
Another two responses agreed to by the city and RCMP include providing refreshed training to the cell guards, including physically checking the cells every 15 minutes, and properly filling out prisoner logs.
The city did turn down several recommendations.
It won’t hire a second guard as was recommended, and it will remain the case that a second guard is only brought in for situations where there are high risk prisoners in the cells or if the number of people in the cells reaches 12. The city cited high costs for rejecting this idea.
Other recommendations turned down by the city were making windows in the cell doors easier for the guards to see through during checks, and upgrading the size of video monitoring screens.
Councillor Brian Downie suggested that upgrading the screens “may be something we should look at.”
Chief administrative officer Heather Avison responded that the RCMP is doing its own review of the coroner’s recommendations, and that the city will do upgrades if the RCMP feels it is necessary once those responses are released.