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Hell House: Why the Don Jail is a wretched, dangerous dungeon that should have been shut down ages ago

Last year, Jeff Munro was beaten to death at the Don Jail over a bag of chips. His fate was not unusual. The Don is a wretched, dangerous dungeon that should have been shut down ages ago. Instead, it’s where we send people who haven’t yet been convicted of anything

On a Sunday last November, Christine Munro was putting the Christmas tree up early, just like she does every year, when two police officers came to her door. Christine is a dental assistant and mother of four. She lives on a quiet cul-de-sac in Paris, Ontario, with her husband, Paul, who is a mechanic, and their 15-year-old son, Devon. She also has two grown daughters, Brittany and Melanie, who visit often. When Christine saw the officers on her front porch, however, her thoughts immediately jumped to her eldest child. “I opened my door and said, ‘Please don’t tell me it’s about Jeff.’ ”

The Don Jail

(Image: Boris Spremo/CP)

It was. Five days before, the officers explained, Jeff, a diagnosed schizophrenic, had been spotted exposing himself on the street. He was arrested on Yonge near Davenport. It wasn’t Jeff’s first arrest. He was known to police, but in the past they’d usually delivered him to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. This time, they took him to the Toronto Jail—the red brick building at Broadview and Gerrard that, despite its official name, just about everyone still calls the Don. In the jail, three other prisoners—Troy Victor Campbell, Osman Sarikaya and Kevin Andre Veiro, all in their early 20s—accused Jeff of stealing a bag of chips and, in retaliation, allegedly punched and kicked him to death. When a guard found Jeff slumped in his cell, he had what the police report called “obvious signs of trauma to the face.”