Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today is calling on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to abolish the practice of placing inmates indefinitely in segregation.
Dubé says “Indefinite segregation should no longer be an accepted or legal correctional practice in Ontario,” He says the province needs to develop alternatives to protect the rights of the vulnerable.
Dubé made the comments in his office’s submission to the province’s consultation on the use of solitary confinement.
He says Ontario’s long-term plan should be to develop housing and programs for vulnerable inmates with developmental, behavioural and mental health challenges.
In the short term, safeguards should be put in place to protect the rights of anyone placed in segregation. Things like requiring that they be assessed by a mental health provider every 24 hours.
The Ombudsman calls on the Ministry to address what he calls “the serious adverse effects of segregation and the wholesale inadequacy of existing procedural protections.”
He makes 28 recommendations, including creating an independent panel to review segregation placements, and giving procedures — such as a 15-day limit on placements — the force of law.
One of the recommendations includes limitting segregation to no more than 15 days and no inmate should be in segregation for more than 60 days in a year.
Dubé says in the submission. “These oversight mechanisms should be combined with an enhanced emphasis on the well-being, treatment, and rehabilitation of segregated inmates.”
Ombudsman staff alerted the Ministry to several segregation placements longer than three months in 2013 and 2014 where the required documentation could not be produced. One facility was found to have fabricated documentation when managers could not find it — prompting an audit that determined “most of the reviews that should have been completed could not be found.”
The United Nations has declared that placing inmates in segregation for longer than 15 days is a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.