The word, indiscernible, is the title of our eight-part series examining the death of a man named Jamie High.
The word was used 26 times in the transcription of a court hearing to describe his 36 final attempts to be heard.
Jamie, 40, had been a successful, popular and athletic real estate agent.
At that hearing, he sat in a room at London’s provincial jail, naked under a heavy suicide gown in a wheelchair, muttering sounds on a video screen to courtroom officials who held his fate in their hands.
An hour and a half later he died on the floor of his solitary confinement cell, two days before Christmas 2014.
The Free Press ran a short news story the next day, neither his name nor details of his death known.
It took two years of investigation before we could understand what happened to Jamie.
What happened to Jamie? What could happen to anyone in Ontario.
In Ontario, bail is denied by rote and unreasonable conditions enforced. Community mental health care is denied to people accused of crime. There are no provincial standards for how police and hospitals deal with accused. The courts seem powerless to help inmates. Jails haven’t the resources to treat addiction and mental illness. Coroners inquests have done little to correct problems.
The investigation into Jamie’s death has had significant impact.
A coalition of 35 Southwestern Ontario social service agencies agreed to revisit policy prohibiting accused from getting mental health care. Police, Crown, lawyers and court officials in St. Thomas Ontario have changed how they deal with accused under psychological stress. London police will uses the series in domestic violence training. The province has committed to improving its bail procedures and its health care in jails.
Jamie’s death was indiscernible, difficult to see clearly, at first.
The investigation into his death, however, has given The London Free Press a clear path toward continued examination of Ontario’s broken justice and mental health care systems.
In his name, we are committed to following that path.