An “astounding, almost laughable” escape from Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre has corrections officials scrambling to find out what went wrong, police looking for a guns and drugs suspect, and an inmate advocate shaking his head.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” lawyer Kevin Egan said Thursday. “It’s astounding. We have a dangerous person on the loose.”
London police are hunting for Justin Kunz, 19, after an inmate walked out of the maximum-security provincial centre Wednesday morning.
The inmate altered his appearance to look like his cellmate, who was about to be released, London police said Thursday.
The inmate threatened his cellmate to be quiet when corrections officers came for him, and then identified himself as the cellmate.
He was then released, while the man who was supposed to be freed apparently stayed quiet, and definitely stayed in the cell.
“The ministry is conducting an internal investigation to determine not only what caused the improper release, but also to determine if any actions are required to ensure it does not happen again,” Brent Ross, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said in an emailed response to questions.
“The improper release of any inmate from a correctional facility is unacceptable, and the ministry takes its responsibilities in this area very seriously.”
The “improper release” doesn’t constitute an escape, Ross said.
“Contrary to reports, the inmate did not escape from the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, and to date no one has ever escaped on their own or with the help of others, from the EMDC.”
Whatever they call it, “it’s almost laughable,” said Egan, who represents hundreds of inmates and ex-inmates over conditions and supervision at EMDC.
“This guy has been in since November. Why do they not know who he is? How could be have changed his appearance? Do they supply makeup to the guys? Everybody is wearing the same clothes, the same orange jumpsuit.”
Justin Kunz (Facebook photo)
The province’s offender tracking information system, OTIS, includes a photograph and description of each inmate, including height and weight, Egan noted.
Egan has pushed the province to make changes at EMDC that has been plagued by violence, overcrowding, lockdowns, work refusals and inmate disruptions. He said now the problems have spread outside.
“It points to the malaise in there where people don’t do their jobs and incompetence follows. This time it has impact on the public. It is not confined within the walls.”
Kunz was arrested in November after police seized a loaded Norinco AK-47 style rifle and 22 rounds of 7.62 ammunition, a loaded Colt 45 handgun and 35 rounds of .45 calibre ammunition, pepper spray, 93 grams of cocaine worth $9,300 and $1,080 from an Ernest Avenue residence.
Kunz was charged with several firearm offences and possession for the purpose of trafficking. A police release Thursday said Kunz was also in custody facing charges of uttering threats and mischief.
Now police want him as well for impersonation, uttering threats and being unlawfully at large.
But police say the public doesn’t have to worry.
“We have no indication he poses a threat to the community,” spokesperson Const. Amanda Corsaut said.
OPSEU Local 108 president Dominic Bragaglia, who represents correctional officers at EMDC, said he could not comment on the matter because it is under investigation.