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hope they see the shirts and they cringe, she says of the officials who run Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC). was under their care and control. He was supposed to be safe. Pigeau, 32, died at EMDC Jan. 7, the sixth inmate to die at the troubled provincial jail in London in the past seven months, the 13th in the past nine years.
Violence, drugs, poisonous labour relations, overcrowding, gangs, inadequate health care, lack of supervision, staff shortages and an increase in inmates arriving with mental illness and serious addictions, have all plagued EMDC over the past nine years.
James Pigeau was well known to correctional officers and inmates alike for complaining about the conditions at EMDC, an advocate in some eyes but an irritant in others.
The London man claimed to have been beaten by correctional officers last summer, and later by a gang of inmates.
He wrote letters and provided information to The London Free Press, the CBC Fifth Estate and London lawyer Kevin Egan, who represents hundreds of inmates in legal actions against the province.
Police told his family there were no signs of struggle in his death, and that cocaine was found in his cell, Janice Pigeau says.
Sources say they suspect he died of a fentanyl overdose, a drug he swore to many he never touch.
can get over the possibility that Jamie was silenced. I know it sounds dramatic, but that the way I feel. There something not right, Janice Pigeau says.
In an interview in their large home in a rural part of south London, Pigeau describes her son as big marshmallow, but he put on the tough exterior. 7, of a drug overdose.
Jamie was the baby in a family of five boys and three children.
just seems with the other seven, every brick they put in place stayed put, Pigeau says. was almost like Jamie couldn put one brick on top of the other. Jamie was 11, his best friend drowned playing in the Thames River by the Hunt dam, she says. Jamie wasn there to help him and lived with guilt forever.
became a compulsive runaway and every time the police brought him home, he be so angry. don need anybody, he say. can take care of myself, let me go. on, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although he got treatment, he also got into trouble.
Pigeau finished high school but by then was racking up a record for stealing cars and driving infractions. His escalating crimes got him a stint in the Joyceville federal prison, where he learned enough about woodworking to build his parents a grandfather clock and display cabinet that stand in the front foyer of their home.
Then he met Adam Kargus, a Sarnia resident, at EMDC. Kargus was a tattoo artist, in jail in 2013 for using stolen IDs to buy cellphones.
Kargus started teaching Pigeau how to make his sketches come to life. The two men lived in Unit 6 Right, until another Sarnia man, Anthony George, pressured Kargus to move to the adjacent unit, 6 Left.
Pigeau told The Free Press he witnessed, in the yard, George assaulting Kargus while correctional officers shrugged it off as rough housing. Backed by other inmates, Kargus asked to be transferred back to his old unit, but the managers refused.
The night, Oct. 31, 2013, that George beat Kargus to death, inmates on both units heard the brutal, hour long attack and called for help, Pigeau said.
No one came.
After the attack, Pigeau was sent to St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre, a facility for men with serious mental illness and where he says he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
When he was released in the summer of 2014, he came back home to London on parole.
he would have night terrors, his mother says.
could hear him screaming, somebody help? . . . And that was so hard because it not a nightmare where you can cuddle your child. With night terrors, you kind of have to back away so you don get hurt. That was so hard. was home for more than two years, the longest stay at home since he was 13. He worked with a friend, clearing snow in the winter and landscaping in the summer.
He was getting help from a PTSD clinic, but was also put on an array of drugs. Pigeau brings out her son pill dispensary, 17 pills in four different times slots each day.
swear he rattled when he walked, she says. think they were playing with his system. There be times he couldn sleep. There be times he couldn wake up. There be times he wasn hungry and there be times he eat and eat and eat. it took was one winter of little snow and little work to make her son too restless, He began using cocaine and heroin. He stole from his mom and his brothers.
just seemed the more he tried to get better, it seemed he had more night terrors, Pigeau said.
In April, he was charged with armed robbery and driving offences.
The letters he wrote from EMDC since last spring were full of apologies but full of plans and hope as well, Pigeau says.