Ontario's solitary confinement tracking system 'wrong ... oppressive': ombudsman ‘We probably tracke

Ontario's solitary confinement tracking system 'wrong ... oppressive': ombudsman ‘We probably tracked livestock better than we do human beings’ — ministry official (iPolitics.ca)

April 20, 2017

20 April, 2017

After a shocking case of solitary confinement in one Ontario prison was exposed last fall, the province’s ombudsman has revealed a system that fails to track how long inmates remain in segregation and largely ignores policies meant to ensure segregation placements are both reviewed and justified.

Ainslie Cruickshank
iPolitics.ca
April 20, 2017

After a shocking case of solitary confinement in one Ontario prison was exposed last fall, the province’s ombudsman has revealed a system that fails to track how long inmates remain in segregation and largely ignores policies meant to ensure segregation placements are both reviewed and justified.

“The Ministry’s tracking and review of segregation placements is unreasonable, wrong, oppressive, and contrary to law under the Ombudsman Act,” Ombudsman Paul Dubé concluded following an investigation into how the province tracks and reviews inmate placements in solitary confinement, launched in December.

Dubé’s investigation followed reports that 24-year-old Adam Capay spent four years in solitary confinement awaiting trial, much of that time under 24-hour artificial light in a windowless cell.

What Dubé found revealed Capay’s case was not unique.

He found that many inmates are held in solitary confinement for longer than 15 days, the point at which the UN considers solitary to be “cruel, inhuman and degrading” punishment. He also found that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services does not properly track or review those cases.

“As a result, the Ministry could not produce reliable statistics on segregation placements, much less verify that every one was justified,” Dubé said.

These issues are exacerbated by “confusion and disagreement” about what constitutes segregation between officials and correctional staff. The policy does not clearly define segregation or outline acceptable conditions for inmates in segregation, Dubé found.

One inmate, identified by the pseudonym Keith, was held in solitary confinement in a dozen different locations for more than a year, Dubé found. At least some of that time was spent in a “dark, dirty cell.”

Harry (again, not his real name) spent more than 30 days in segregation and was “naked and in a dishevelled state in a dirty cell” when Dubé’s team discovered him.

“We probably tracked livestock better than we do human beings,” one ministry official said during Ombudsman Paul Dubé’s investigation.

Since September 2015, a report is supposed to be sent to senior ministry staff outlining the potential negative effects of solitary confinement whenever an inmate is held in segregation for more than 60 days in a year.

Dubé found no such reports had ever been written.

“The ministry’s review of segregation placements to ensure compliance with regulation and policy is also patently deficient,” his report says.

“We discovered numerous instances in which inaccurate and inconsistent information was used to justify and explain the lengthy segregation of vulnerable inmates.”

Dubé made 32 recommendations to reform the use of segregation in Ontario — among them, that an independent panel be appointed to review all segregation placements and that segregation should be better defined.

“What this investigation has made abundantly clear is that vigorous and credible oversight mechanisms need to be put in place to enforce the regulation and policy, as well as to ensure respect for inmates’ human rights,” Dubé said in his report.

But his recommendations and findings “will not be news to the Ministry,” he said. His office has made recommendations to reform the use of segregation before and many officials acknowledged serious concerns about the system in interviews over the last few months.

More to come …