‘Serious problems’ in use of segregation in prisons, Ontario ombudsman reports (The Star)

‘Serious problems’ in use of segregation in prisons, Ontario ombudsman reports (The Star)

April 20, 2017

20 April, 2017

Paul Dubé calls on provincial government to better track and monitor use of solitary confinement.

Kristin Rushowy
The Star
April 20, 2017

Paul Dubé calls on provincial government to better track and monitor use of solitary confinement.

The use of segregation in Ontario jails is full of “serious problems,” including a lack of accurate tracking and monitoring of prisoners, says the province’s ombudsman in a report released Thursday.

“The first problem is that the ministry does not operate under a clear definition for segregation,” Paul Dubé told reporters at Queen’s Park. “So whether someone is even considered to be in segregation depends on which definition is being used.”

Required reviews of prisoners left in a cell for 22 hours a day don’t happen when they should, often because the paperwork is incomplete or inaccurate, his review found.

Dubé mentioned Adam Capay, who was segregated for four years while waiting for his case to make it to the courts.

That “is shocking in itself — almost unimaginable,” Dubé said, “but what was even more shocking was that the ministry responsible for safeguarding the human rights of the incarcerated did not know about it.”

In fact, he says, the ministry’s own records indicated Capay had been in solitary for 50 days, when in reality, Capay had spent 1,591 days on his own.

“As far as the ministry was concerned, he was out of sight and out of mind.”

Dubé makes 32 recommendations, calling on the government to legislate a clear definition of segregation, train correctional staff, make sure reviews of prisoners in solitary are conducted as required, as well as set up “independent panels to review all segregation placements and place the onus on the ministry (of community safety and correctional services) to show that each placement is justified.”

Ontario has about 8,000 inmates in its jails, about 560 of them in segregation.

Prisoners can be held for nondisciplinary reasons, such as their own safety, and others can be put in segregation for disciplinary reasons.

The Ontario government recently limited disciplinary segregation to 15 consecutive days.

It also started its own review of segregation headed by former federal corrections investigator Howard Sapers, who will issue his findings in May.

The ombudsman’s report notes the toll that segregation takes on inmates, calling it “a severe form of punishment that can have grave and lasting effects on a person’s mental state.”

The report does not call for a total ban on its use, unlike Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, but Dubé said it should never be used beyond 15 days.

In a written statement, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde, said “the issues raised by the ombudsman are deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. We must do better.

“I am committed to addressing each of the Ombudsman’s recommendations, and reporting back on our progress at six month intervals until his recommendations are fully implemented.”