hones are the only way for prisoners to contact the outside world but many factors, including high rates and limited accessibility, have made it more difficult to make a call. For some prisoners the inability to connect with loved ones has negatively affected their mental health and safe reintroduction into society.
Matthew Villeneuve is incarcerated at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC), potentially facing a long jail sentence. He says he feels increasingly cut off from the outside world after being imprisoned for three years.
Limiting access to phones has a tremendous impact on mental health and as a result the ability re-enter society, said Michael Spratt, a criminal lawyer and partner at Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP. This tension has been exacerbated by the restriction of in person visits during the pandemic.
“When you’re in custody, you need to rely on some sort of outside support to make sure that you have a job, don’t lose your house and you’re able to have someone access and take care of finances for you,” said Spratt.
Spratt said there are few options for prisoners if they want to contact someone or arrange their lives for when they are released.
“You can write a letter in jail. But you can’t get an email. You can’t log on to your online banking. You can’t pay your bills,” said Spratt. “You can’t even log onto the internet to do research about your case or connect to outside assistance.”