Family looking for answers following suicide of jail inmate Yousef Hussein

The family of 27-year-old Yousef Hussein, who took his life in a jail cell at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre after waiting two years for a trial, is demanding answers.

Jail advocates say system in crisis, immediate action needed

Yousef Hussein in an undated photograph. (Facebook)

The family of the man who committed suicide at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre this week after waiting two years to go trial is demanding answers about the circumstances surrounding his death.

Yousef Hussein, 27, had been on suicide watch since April 9 and was found dead in his jail cell by guards three days later.

A Jordanian national with an expired student visa, Hussein had been awaiting trial after being arrested two years ago on a number of charges, including six counts of sexual assault.

"Everybody is in total ruins, in shock," family spokesperson Ahmad Abouali told CBC News. 
"There are so many questions. Where were the guards? Aren't they supposed to check on him? Where are the cameras? Where was the nurse?" said Abouali, who went to view Hussein's body Tuesday. 

Told wife he wanted to end life

Hussein's wife alerted authorities that, during one of their phone calls, he said he wanted to end his life, Abouali said 

It was during that call, according to Abouali, that Hussein said he'd been told his two-year wait for a trial would be extended another year.

"We had been told the case was ready to go to trial, so we don't know what happened," said Abouali.

We demand a real investigation [into] what really happened to Yousef.- Family spokesperson Ahmad Abouali

Furthermore, because of the extended wait, jail authorities had apparently told Hussein he'd have to move to another facility further away — the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., said Abouali.

Abouali said Hussein had refused, "and that's when he was placed in segregation."

"Hussein's sister had had permission to visit on Saturday but was turned away," said Abouali, adding that being placed in segregation was the final straw for Hussein.

"He told his wife he didn't want to live any longer." 

Advocate says case underscores crisis at OCDC

Catherine Latimer, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, said that although she does not know the details of the case, Hussein may have faced a perfect storm of many of the worst problems facing the system.

Those problems include Hussein's prolonged wait in pre-trial detention, the use of administrative segregation, and the lack of mental health services, she said.

"I would say [the system's] at a crisis point," said Latimer. "So we've been pressing really hard to see some immediate changes."

While Latimer said the task force recently announced by Ontario's Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi is welcome, there are changes that can be made right away to relieve the situation. 

In particular, advocates have been calling for an immediate easing of the bail system, Latimer said.  Keeping more non-violent criminals out of jail would alleviate overcrowding, which in turn would open up more resources for dealing with problems like mental health for those who remain incarcerated, she said. 

Meanwhile, as Abouali and the family arrange the funeral for Hussein, he said there is a cloud of questions that remain.

 ​"We don't know what happened," said Abouali. "We demand a real investigation [into] what really happened to Yousef."