SQ team investigates at request of public security minister

Man hangs himself in Kuujjuaq jail

By JANE GEORGE

Silas Papak, 36, hanged himself in a Kuujjuaq jail cell July 21 while in the custody of the Kativik Regional Police Force.

Sûreté du Quebec spokesperson Sgt. Jason Gauthier said a team of SQ investigators travelled to Kuujjuaq this past weekend, at the request of the public security minister, to look into the circumstances surrounding Papak's death.

No coroner's inquest will be held.

Gauthier said the investigation showed Papak's death to be a "voluntary act." He said there did not appear to be "anything criminal or negligent" in connection with Papak's death, and he said the death appeared to be due to suicide.

Gauthier said when the death of a prisoner in police custody occurs in Quebec, police from another force in the province are generally asked to investigate the circumstances around the death.

Sources told Nunatsiaq News that Papak had been taken into custody in connection with a conjugal assault. After his arrest, police held him in a cell usually used to hold women or youth.

A guard was on duty, but Papak was not on a suicide watch when he apparently was able to weave bedsheets into a rope to hang himself.

Recently, KRPF management signaled a need to increase wages paid to jail guards to attract and retain more guards.

At a regional council meeting this spring, Kativik Regional Government councillors also noted guards want more training in addition to higher pay.

Guard duty in Kuujjuaq's police station can be challenging, as the eight-cell jail has a history of overcrowding. Sometimes the cells, which are designed to hold 15 people, actually hold up to 32 inmates waiting for court dates.

The police station in Kuujjuaq is undergoing $1.3 million worth of renovations this year. These include an addition and improvements to the holding section of the station.

Quebec jails have a higher-than-average suicide rate, according to a 2003 Corrections Canada study. This study found the suicide rate in Quebec jails to be 138 per 100,000. Among the general male population of Quebec, the rate is only 22 per 100,000.

"Therefore, there are three to four times more suicides in Quebec penitentiaries than in the general population," said the study.

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