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Two meeting rooms at new jail not enough

Roots

Limited space for face-to-face meetings between lawyers and their clients at the new Etobicoke superjail is concerning, and may lead to courtroom delays, Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says in the Toronto Star.

The new jail, set to replace the aging Don Jail, will take in 1,650 inmates by the end of the year, the report says, noting there are just two meeting rooms available to lawyers and their clients in the new building.

The Don Jail, which holds 562 inmates, has six meeting rooms set aside for legal counsel, the Star reports.

“From a justice perspective and a right-to-counsel perspective and the right to a fair trial … having two rooms for 1,650 inmates is troubling,” Gadhia says in the article.

The rooms will be available by appointment, which may be problematic for last-minute visits before or during trials, she says, noting effects could be felt in the courtroom.

There are also three private rooms where the lawyer and client are separated by glass and five private “video visit” rooms where the two are connected by video link, the Star reports, but Gadhia says face-to-face meetings are critical for clients to review and sign documents ahead of trials.

“You certainly can’t do that over a Skype-style screen or through glass, clean as the glass may be,” Gadhia says in the Star.

While she hopes the number of rooms can be increased, Gadhia worries it’s too late.

“The building has been built, the areas have been designated. Although I understand their position is that nothing is yet written in stone, it is stone already,” she says in the Star. “I think this was very short-sighted plan on their part.”