Toronto – The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) welcomes the first report of Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform, Howard Sapers, on the use of segregation in Ontario’s correctional system.
The report confirms that there is systemic overuse of segregation, and supports the OHRC’s position that prisoners’ rights under the Human Rights Code (Code) are being violated. According to the report, over 1300 people spent more than 60 aggregate days in segregation last year. At most institutions vulnerable prisoners protected under the Code including people with mental health disabilities, those who need mobility devices, or those who are sick, typically end up in segregation.
The report also suggests that the Ontario government is not meeting the terms of its 2013 Jahn v. Community Safety and Correctional Services settlement agreement with the OHRC, which included barring segregation for people with mental illness except as a last resort. The report states that in the past year and a half, the number of people with mental illness or suicide alerts in segregation has actually increased. The OHRC is now considering legal action to hold the government accountable.
The OHRC supports Mr. Sapers’ recommendations for segregation reform and recognizes them as a roadmap to compliance with the Code. While moving towards overall correctional reform is critical, OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane emphasizes the need to also take immediate action: “There are people in long-term segregation right now in Ontario who can’t wait for changes that will take months or years to make. The government needs to address their circumstances immediately.” The report states that, as of January 31, 2017, there were five people in segregation who had been there for over three years.
Public outcry over the treatment of Adam Capay is partly responsible for the existence of this report. Its findings show that Mr. Capay’s treatment was not an isolated incident or an exceptional case. The OHRC encourages the public to stay engaged on this issue and keep pushing the government to back up their commitments with real action.
Senior Communications Advisor (Acting), OHRC
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