No inquest into man's death at provincial correctional centre

·3 min read
'An inquest is not necessary in this matter, pursuant to Section 18 of the Coroners Act,' the Department of Justice said in a statement.  (Shane Hennessy/CBC - image credit)
'An inquest is not necessary in this matter, pursuant to Section 18 of the Coroners Act,' the Department of Justice said in a statement. (Shane Hennessy/CBC - image credit)

Calls are growing louder for the province to hold an inquest into the death of a man at the Provincial Correctional Centre last month.

The province says Kenneth Hoddinott, 47, was found unresponsive on Dec.16 during routine checks on the lock-up area. CPR was administered but he was later pronounced dead.

Last week, the Department of Justice and Public Safety said the coroner had ruled an inquest into the death is unnecessary.

"An inquest is not necessary in this matter, pursuant to Section 18 of the Coroners Act," the department said in a statement.

CBC
CBC

That section of the legislation says, "A coroner shall hold an inquest into the death of a person who dies while an inmate … unless the coroner is satisfied that the death was due entirely to natural causes and was not preventable."

Maybe people don't care that it was in jail – but that's somebody's father, that's somebody's brother. — Ellen Taylor

"Satisfied" is far from the reaction of one of Hoddinott's friends who wants an inquest to be called.

"I think that they owe it to Islanders. I think they owe it to him and his family. I think they owe it to people who struggle with mental health and addictions in this province," said Ellen Taylor, an addictions and mental health advocate who met Hoddinott while in recovery.

Was involved in addictions recovery

Hoddinott was a generous man, an excellent tradesperson and a leader for other men in the recovery community, said Taylor.

"By not having an inquest it also sends the message, it doesn't really matter and maybe people don't care that it was in jail – but that's somebody's father, that's somebody's brother," said Taylor.

CBC
CBC

When they first met, Hoddinott had been sober for one year, said Taylor. Eight months ago, she ran into him on the street and was saddened to see he had relapsed.

"The first thing I thought of was 'That could be me' … just the blank look in his eye, it was so heartbreaking."

Taylor doesn't know why he was sent to the correctional facility where he died. Hoddinott had no history of violence, as far as she knew.

This needs to be dug into and the minister doesn't just get to sweep this under the rug. — Lynne Lund

His death has left Taylor wondering why resources like Prince Edward Island's new mobile mental health units were not used to handle someone in such a vulnerable situation.

Politicians seek answers

The Green Party's justice critic, Lynne Lund, has written to Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson, calling for a coroner's inquest. If one is not announced, she said she'll ask a legislative standing committee to investigate instead.

"Frankly, this is a pretty big issue, I think it speaks to some concerns on whether or not the justice system is really the best place for us to be dealing with mental health issues. Is it the right place for us to be dealing with addiction issues?" said Lund.

"We're seeing housing issues showing up in the justice system. This needs to be dug into and the minister doesn't just get to sweep this under the rug."

Liberal health critic Gord McNeilly said he met Hoddinott in his former role as critic for social development.

CBC
CBC

"Why did this happen? And I can tell you that these questions are not being answered," said McNeilly. "We've lost somebody here that was looking for help and assistance and there needs to be something done."

The province said correctional officers did follow protocol and checked on Hoddinott at least every half-hour after he was taken to the Provincial Correctional Centre.

Hoddinott's obituary said he will be buried in his hometown of Shoe Cove, N.L., this spring. He was a father of three children, and his ex-wife lives in Charlottetown. The obituary encouraged donations to the Salvation Army's Outreach Centre.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting