Ontario to study issue of segregation in prisons

Kingston Jail

Maximum security cell block in Kingston Penitentiary.Pic: Boardhead/Wiki. GNU Free Documentation License

Ontario will appoint an independent external reviewer to further examine the use of segregation in the province’s adult correctional facilities.

David Orazietti, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said: “I have ordered this independent review to help build on the important work already underway to address issues with respect to the use of segregation in our adult correctional facilities. We are working to bring some immediate support to inmates currently housed in segregation by continuing to work with Ontario’s correctional staff to implement these important changes while this review is underway. These changes are also a critical step in our broader strategy to transform our province’s correctional services, and we will ensure that the safety and well-being of inmates and staff remain our top priority.”

The reviewer will be asked to provide advice on an expedited basis, building on the work done by the ministry to date and reflecting the recommendations from the Ombudsman as well as the remedies arising from the Jahn application and the work done by the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, to advise the government on key principles and implementing measures to:

  • Reduce the number of people held in segregation, and the length of time individuals spend in segregation
  • Build a system in which appropriate alternatives to segregation are more available for vulnerable inmates, such as pregnant women and those with acute mental health issues, and segregation is used only in rare circumstances
  • Improve the conditions under which individuals are held when in segregation
  • Improve oversight of inmates and correctional institutions, which may include consideration of the creation of a permanent external position to perform this function

Implementation Plan

The reviewer will submit a final report to the government, which will be made publicly available and will inform a provincial implementation plan to be released in Spring 2017.

The province and reviewer will continue to consult with key stakeholders and correctional staff to explore broader changes for the sector, including the resources and infrastructure required to support the overall work on Ontario’s transformation of correctional services. This will also include exploring alternative accommodations to segregation, especially for vulnerable individuals.

In addition to the appointment of the external reviewer, Ontario is taking immediate action with the goal of reducing the number of inmates placed in segregation and to improve conditions for those who, for their own safety and the safety of others, must currently be segregated from the general inmate population.

The following changes to the use of segregation will be implemented, effective immediately:

  • Segregation will only be used as a measure of last resort, and will only be used under the least restrictive conditions available while still maintaining inmate and staff safety
  • A limit of 15 consecutive days in disciplinary segregation will be established,reduced from the current maximum of 30 consecutive days
  • A weekly segregation review committee will be created at each institution to conduct case reviews of all inmates in segregation
  • The “loss of all privileges” in disciplinary segregation will be eliminated, and will move towards alternative sanctions and increased incentives for inmates to maintain good behaviour
  • Work will begin with the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care to explore ways to enhance the appropriate supports for inmates with mental health issues and other vulnerable inmates
  • A review of current data collection practices will be undertaken­to ensure the ministry is collecting the right type of data and is collecting that data efficiently, effectively and consistently across the system
  • An assessment of existing capital infrastructure relating to segregation will be conducted, including any opportunities for improvements and appropriate alternatives regionally.

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