Ontario routinely flouts solitary-confinement rules: report (The Globe and Mail)

Ontario routinely flouts solitary-confinement rules: report (The Globe and Mail)

April 20, 2017

20 April, 2017

Following a six-month investigation, Ontario’s Ombudsman has found that the province routinely flouts its own rules around solitary confinement in prisons, regularly losing track of how long prisoners have spent in the restrictive cells as well as why they were placed there.

Patrick White
The Globe and Mail
April 20, 2017

Following a six-month investigation, Ontario’s Ombudsman has found that the province routinely flouts its own rules around solitary confinement in prisons, regularly losing track of how long prisoners have spent in the restrictive cells as well as why they were placed there.

The Ombudsman’s investigators interviewed dozens of prisoners and ministry officials and visited four prisons, where they found several examples of neglect that left segregated prisoners largely unaccounted for.

As one ministry official told investigators, “We probably tracked livestock better than we do human beings.”

Paul Dubé launched the investigation last October, when Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane first exposed the plight of Adam Capay, a 24-year-old Lac Seul First Nation man who had logged more than four years in solitary confinement awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge.

When Ms. Mandhane asked for details on Mr. Capay’s segregation from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, she was given nothing because “the Ministry didn’t know about it,” according to Mr. Dubé’s 69-page report, Out of Oversight, Out of Mind.

That revelation prompted Mr. Dubé to dispatch investigators across the province to study how the province monitors prisoners in solitary confinement, which has been found to contribute to a host of health problems and labelled cruel and inhuman by the United Nations when durations exceed 15 days.

In one prison they came across an inmate identified in the report only as Keith. He had been segregated for more than a year in a variety of different locations. Extensive paperwork created for Keith gave five separate dates for when he began his stint in solitary, meaning nobody knew exactly how long Keith had spent alone in a cell.

In another instance, investigators met an inmate named Harry who was “naked and in a dishevelled state in a dirty cell,” the report states. He’d logged 30 days in segregation, and yet records for Harry showed incorrect information, ignored his severe mental illness and suggested that mandatory reviews of his condition had not taken place.

“Officials we interviewed candidly admitted that they could not trust the inconsistent and contradictory segregation data generated by correctional facilities,” the report states. “They also recognized that segregation reviews conducted by front-line officers and regional Ministry staff were typically pro-form exercises.”

The Ministry doesn’t use the term solitary confinement, widely defined as any form of incarceration where inmates log 22 or more hours in a cell without meaningful human contact. Instead, prisoners housed in this form of detention are said to be in “segregation.” But Mr. Dubé found that the Ministry doesn’t clearly define “segregation,” describing it only as an area in a prison. The lack of a crystal-clear definition accounts for much of the widespread confusion throughout the Ministry when it comes to housing and tracking isolated inmates.

The report’s 32 recommendations call on the government to enshrine a new definition of segregation, create a tracking system that alerts front-line managers when solitary prisoners are due for review, establish an independent review panel for all segregation placements and disseminate up-to-date segregation data to the public.

In a response appended to the report, the Ministry said that many of the recommendations are already being implemented.