Ontario ombudsman announces review of process of placing prisoners in solitary (The Star)
Rob Ferguson, Queen's Park Bureau
December 2, 2016
A dramatic rise in complaints about inmates in segregation — including murder suspect Adam Capay at the Thunder Bay jail — has prompted Ontario’s new ombudsman to launch an investigation.
Paul Dubé said Friday he will probe “how the province tracks and reviews” the placement of prisoners in solitary confinement, given that there have been 175 complaints since April alone.
That compares with 186 in the preceding 12 months, said Dubé, whose staff recently visited Capay, a young aboriginal man who spent more than four years in solitary confinement awaiting trial after a series of delays in his case.
Roughly 7 per cent of Ontario’s 8,000 inmates are placed in segregation for safety, disciplinary or medical reasons — although prisoners can be segregated indefinitely over safety or health concerns.
Capay was charged with first-degree murder in the maximum security Thunder Bay Correctional Centre after fellow inmate Sherman Quisses was stabbed in the neck in a jailhouse confrontation and bled to death in June 2012.
Controversy over Capay’s lengthy time in solitary prompted Correctional Services Minister David Orazietti to announce in October that the time inmates could be held in segregation for disciplinary reasons was being cut in half to 15 days and used only as a “last resort.”
Capay, 23, was moved to a standard cell five weeks ago after being held in a windowless segregation with a light shining constantly, leaving him unable to distinguish night from day. He was given access to a day room, showers, a phone and television.
New Democrat corrections critic Jennifer French welcomed the ombudsman’s investigation, saying Capay’s long sojourn in solitary meets the international definition of torture, and his trial delay is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This unacceptable situation has shown that the minister of corrections has allowed deep systemic flaws to compromise Ontario’s corrections system,” French, MPP for Oshawa, said in a statement.
“We look forward to the ombudsman’s report and expect the Liberal government to take immediate action to oversee and limit the use of all forms of segregation in the province’s jails.”
Orazietti acknowledged “the conditions being described in our institutions, with respect to segregation, are completely unacceptable” and said he looks forward to the ombudsman’s review.
“Weekly segregation review committees are being created at every institution, comprised of both institutional and health-care staff, and tasked with conducting ongoing case reviews of all inmates in segregation.”
Dube said he has concerns about “the adequacy and effectiveness of the review process” for putting inmates in segregation.
His probe is in addition to a review being conducted by departing federal corrections investigator Howard Sapers, recently announced by Orazietti.
“Our investigation, planned before the appointment of the independent reviewer, will not conflict with the work the minister has asked Mr. Sapers to do,” Dubé said in a statement.
“Rather, we expect that it will enhance that effort.”
Dubé said his team of investigators will review statistics, procedures and other elements of segregation orders and visit several jails.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has said the murder case against Capay is proceeding and that the Crown “will bring these charges to trial as quickly as possible.”
The delays have included a change in lawyers by Capay.