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Regina inmate who took own life was allegedly denied spiritual services
Josh Diaz, CTV Regina
Published Friday, October 20, 2017 6:28PM CST
On Aug. 24, less than two years into his prison sentence, 28-year-old Waylon Starr took his own life at the Regina Correctional Centre
Starr was being held in segregation. The centre ruled his death a suicide, and proceeded to notify his family.
"He was a troubled boy, but a compassionate person who loved his family very much," said Waylon’s sister, Reah Starr.
"He was right into his spiritual ways. He was always searching for answers about our culture."
Waylon had been in and out of jail since he was a teenager, and has some serious offences in his criminal history.
Even so, Reah says her brother was deeply spiritual. He would ask the jail guards if he could see an elder for a smudging ceremony.
Nick Denardo, an inmate at the Regina Correctional Centre who knew the deceased, says Waylon never received a ceremony, and that most inmates never do.
"He was wanting to smudge. We all talk about it. We all want to. Even just a smudge in segregation would help us spiritually,” Denardo said.
“We just feel like we're cut off from our culture completely and in segregation, when you're going through things, that’s the time we should have access to our spiritual culture.”
Denardo, who has been an inmate at the centre for 13 months, had submitted frequent requests for his own ceremony, and never received one either.
However, after Waylon committed suicide, Denardo says things changed.
“I've been here a long time. The only time I've ever got a smudge done is when Waylon hung himself,” he said. “After that, an elder came around and smudged our rooms, and that was it.”
Bob Hughes of the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism says inmates contact him frequently about waiting months for spiritual assistance, if it comes at all.
"It should be just a matter of fact that, when First Nations people ask for an elder or a ceremony, that that happens," Hughes said.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Drew Wilby says spiritual services are offered to all inmates, regardless of their situation within the centre. But their location and the condition of their detainment mean the times of access can vary greatly.
“We could always commit to doing better with providing these services in a more timely fashion,” said Wilby.
“But what is important to us is insuring the safety and well-being of our staff, the inmates, and the centre itself out at Regina.”
Hughes says, with the time lengths inmates are expected to wait, the centre might as well deny them. "Maybe, at some point, they get an elder to come in. But its denial if it’s not coming in soon enough,” he said.
“In Mr. Starr’s case, who knows what the outcome would've been if he had immediate access to an elder?”
Regina police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.