Jason Walters, a former prisoner at the Toronto Don Jail, has won roughly $3.4 million in damages from the Ontario government after a court ruled last week that the province failed to protect him from a brutal assault by fellow inmates nearly seven years ago.
Walters had been placed in the same unit as a member of a rival gang when he was beaten to the brink of death in November 2008.
Court documents describe a vicious attack in which Walters was thrown to the ground of the jail’s washrooms and stomped on for half an hour by several assailants. The volume on the television screens outside the showers was turned up to muffle the screams.
Walters was left with debilitating injuries, and he is now often unable to articulate or understand words, according to court documents.
Tyshan Riley, the leader of the Galloway Boys who is now serving a life sentence for murder, is alleged to be the ringleader of the attack, the court documents said. At the time, Walters was a low-level member of the Malvern Crew gang and had been arrested three days earlier on firearms charges.
“The plaintiff sustained serious and lifelong injuries in the assault. He has demonstrated, on a balance of probabilities that the defendant was negligent in its housing of the plaintiff and Riley in the same unit. He has proven that this negligence caused the catastrophic injuries he sustained,” the judge wrote in his August 4 ruling.
At trial, the government argued that the attack was unavoidable. Jail supervisors, the Crown said, had no way of knowing that Walters and Riley were members of rival gangs. That argument was dismissed by the judge, who argued that it was the province’s duty to monitor such feuds.
“I think this ruling will force the ministry to take note about what is going on in the community,” Andrew Camman, Walters’ lawyer, told the Star.
“At the time, the news of what Tyshan Riley was doing was broadcast all over the television stations and the newspapers. What the jail can’t do is stick their head in the sand and say ‘We’re not going to open up a newspaper. We’re not going to watch our televisions. We’re not going to listen to our radios, so that we won’t know anything about this.’ They have an obligation, not only for the safety of the inmate, to know what is going on in that community so that they can protect us from a riot in a jail that maybe leads to a breakout.”
Because of his injuries, Camman said, Walters will most likely never fully understand the court’s decision. The ruling, however, has brought a sense of relief to his mother. Shortly after the assault, she was forced to quit her job to provide for her son, he said.
Lawyers representing the province could not be reached for comment.