Prison Conditions

Inmate Escapes from Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Joely Lambourn (“Lambourn”) escaped last Friday afternoon from the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Staff at the lodge discovered Lambourn missing during a routine count at 12:25 p.m.. A warrant is now out for her arrest.

Lambourn was serving a 2 ½ year sentence for dangerous driving causing death after being convicted of the death of a cyclist in May 2015 near Okotoks, Alberta.

At the time of the accident, Lambourn was a suspended driver and had a history of traffic violations for speeding and careless driving. The Judge found that Labourn was distracted while driving, likely by her cell phone, when she veered off the road and hit the cyclist, Deric Kryvenchuk.

WHAT ARE HEALING LODGES?

In 1992, the federal government passed legislation to allow Aboriginal communities to provide correctional services. This legislation was intended to improve the over-representation of Indigenous offenders in Canada’s correctional system and to address concerns that mainstream prisons do not work for Aboriginal offenders.

In 2017, more than 25% of men and 36% of women incarcerated in Canada were Indigenous. In all of Canada, Indigenous people make up 5% of the population.

Aboriginal Healing Lodges are correctional institutions where Aboriginal values, traditions, and beliefs are used to design services and programs for offenders. A holistic and spiritual approach is taken with guidance and support from Elders and Aboriginal Communities.

Healing lodges are minimum/medium–security facilities for Aboriginal women offenders. Healing lodges for Aboriginal men are minimum-security facilities. Non-Aboriginal offenders may also live at a healing lodge, but must agree to follow Aboriginal programming and spirituality.

Lodge residents have “healing plans”, similar to correctional plans. These specify areas the offender has to work on, which may include such issues as substance abuse, employment, education and family.

There are nine Correctional Service Canada (“CSC”) healing lodges across Canada. Four are managed and operated by CSC and five are managed by community partner organizations.

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge for women offenders in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan is managed by CSC. This was the first healing lodge to open in Canada and it has 30 beds. This facility contains both single and family residential units. Offenders may have children stay with them. Each unit contains a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and eating area, and a living room.

Programs in this healing lodge help offenders build strength to make changes in their lives and address vocational training, family, and children. The offenders learn how to live independently by cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, and completing outdoor maintenance chores.

Before a decision is made to move an offender to a healing lodge, an offender’s risk to public safety must be thoroughly assessed. The inmate must require a limited amount of supervision and control within the institution allowing the offender to take on responsibilities as he/she is preparing to reintegrate into the community.

TERRI-LYNNE MCCLINTIC’S STAY AT A HEALING LODGE

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is the same facility that Terri-Lynne McClintic (“McClintic”) was transferred to earlier this year (the date is unknown). McClintic was only eight years into serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the death of an eight-year-old girl, Tori Stafford (“Stafford”).

McClintic confessed to luring Stafford into the car of her boyfriend on April 8, 2009. Stafford was then sexually assaulted, murdered, and buried in a farmer’s field.

McClintic was transferred from the Grand Valley Institution for Women near Kitchener, Ontario to the healing lodge located in southern Saskatchewan.

McClintic’s transfer to the healing lodge generated passionate debate within the House of Commons and public outcry and protests. This quickly prompted changes to how the Correctional Service of Canada would decide on transferring inmates.

McClintic has been transferred back to a women’s prison in Edmonton. She is not eligible for parole until 2031.

TOUGHER RULES FOR PRISON TRANSFERS FOLLOWING MCCLINTIC TURMOIL

Earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale ordered CSC to improve its policies related to the transfer of medium-security women offenders to facilities that do not have a directly controlled perimeter. These changes were effective immediately for existing and future cases.

Transfers will be required to be authorized by CSC’s deputy commissioner for women, under the new policy.

Factors considered in evaluating the suitability of transfers to facilities without a controlled perimeter, include:

  • The length of an offenders’ sentence.
  • The time remaining before an offender is eligible for an Unescorted Temporary Absence.
  • A requirement that long-term offenders be in the “preparation for release” phase of their correctional plan.
  • The institutional behaviour of the offender.

We will continue to follow any developments in the circumstances surrounding the escape of Lambourn and the transfer of McClintic as they become available and provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about any charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Court of Appeal Ordered Two Jail Guards to Stand Trial for their Role in Inmate’s Death

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

On March 5, 2014, corrections officers, Leslie Lonsbary (“Lonsbary”) and Stephen Jurkus (“Jurkus”), were charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life following the death of inmate, Adam Kargus (“Kargus”).

Kargus was beaten by his cellmate at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (“EMDC”) and was found dead in a jailhouse shower stall on November 1, 2013.  Anthony George pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison (with no possibility of parole for 10 years) last year for beating Kargus to death.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has recently reversed an earlier decision made by Justice A.K. Mitchell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.   At that time, charges against the two guards were dismissed as a result of too much time having passed since they were charged.

LOWER COURT DECISION

At the time of Kargus’ beating and subsequent death, Lonsbary and Jurkus were both employed by the Ministry of Correctional Services at EMDC and on duty.

Following a four month investigation by police, the two men were arrested and charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to Kargus thereby endangering his life contrary to section 215(1)(c) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

In February, 2017, Lonsbary and Jurkus brought an application before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice arguing that their constitutional rights had been infringed due to the delay in bringing their case to trial.

A three week jury trial was scheduled to commence on May 8, 2017. The guards submitted that the delay from arrest to the expected completion date of trial would be 1,178 days or 39.3 months. They attributed the delay to the Crown prosecutor and the court.

Applying the formula for delay as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) in the R. v. Jordan (“Jordan”) decision, the lower Court found that the accuseds’ right to be tried within a reasonable period of time was breached. The Court stayed the charges against Lonsbary and Jurkus as the case against them had surpassed the 30-month time limit for trials as set out in the Jordan decision.

WHY IS THE JORDAN DECISION RELEVANT TO THIS CASE?

We have previously blogged about access to justice issues and, more specifically, the commonly criticized length of time it takes for a case to get to trial. The SCC in 2016 set strict time limits for the completion of criminal cases, where there are no exceptional circumstances.

The SCC released its decision in R. v. Jordan on July 8, 2016. In this case, the accused had faced several delays while awaiting his preliminary inquiry and trial. Jordan was eventually convicted of five drug-related offences after 49.5 months. At the beginning of his trial, Jordan brought an application requesting a stay of proceedings due to his constitutional rights being infringed by an unreasonable delay. His application was dismissed. Jordan’s appeal to the Supreme Court of British Columbia was also dismissed.

Jordan proceeded to appeal to the SCC. His appeal was granted, his convictions were set aside and the proceedings were stayed. In this decision, the SCC clearly set out a formula to calculate the amount of time between the initial charge and the actual or anticipated end of trial. The SCC set a ceiling for unreasonable delays at 18 months for cases tried in provincial courts and 30 months for cases to be tried in provincial and superior courts after a preliminary inquiry, except under exceptional circumstances that were reasonably unforeseen or unavoidable.

ONTARIO COURT OF APPEAL

Crown prosecutors appealed the lower court decision to stay proceedings against Lonsbary and Jurkus to the Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”). The Crown argued that the lower court Judge made errors in applying the time frame rules.

According to Justice Fairburn, writing on behalf of the ONCA, delays that were caused by the defence or by “exceptional circumstances” (which can include specific incidents or the general complexity of the case) do not count toward the 30-month ceiling for criminal proceedings.

In conclusion, the ONCA found that there was “no unreasonable delay” and ordered Lonsbary and Jurkus to stand trial.

The two jail guards have the right to appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling. We will continue to follow this case and report on any developments as they take place in this blog.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience. We are available when you need us most.

Indefinite Solitary Confinement Ruled Unconstitutional by B.C. Supreme Court

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We have previously blogged about solitary confinement in Canada and are revisiting this issue given the recent decision from the B.C. Supreme Court striking down sections of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (“CCRA”) that permit prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In this case, lawyers for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada were asking the Court to end administrative segregation in federal penitentiaries in Canada. The Plaintiffs argued that sections 31, 32, 33 and 37 of the CCRA were unconstitutional as they infringe upon an inmate’s rights and freedoms granted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”).

The Correctional Service Canada (“CSC”) procedure known as administrative segregation (similar to solitary confinement) authorizes the placement of inmates in small cells for up to 23 hours a day without meaningful human contact. This type of segregation has no legislated time limits and is left to the discretion of the warden.

The B.C. Court ruled that the laws regarding administrative segregation violate section 7 of the Charter guaranteeing life, liberty and security of person. These infringing laws allow indefinite solitary confinement, prevent independent oversight of segregation decisions and deprive inmates from having a lawyer represent them at segregation review hearings.

The Court also ruled that these laws discriminate against mentally ill and Indigenous inmates contrary to section 15 of the Charter, which guarantees equality before and under the law and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.

Justice Peter Leask wrote in his decision:

I am satisfied that the law … fails to respond to the actual capacities and needs of mentally ill inmates and instead imposes burdens in a manner that has the effect of reinforcing, perpetuating or exacerbating their disadvantage.

HARMFUL EFFECTS OF SEGREGATION

The B.C. Court heard extensive testimony from former prisoners, researchers and correctional officials who addressed the heath effects of administrative segregation. The Court held that solitary confinement places prisoners at significant risk of serious psychological harm and increased risk of self-harm and suicide.

Justice Leask emphasized that based on the evidence solitary confinement increases destructive symptoms and behaviours, including “anxiety, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, cognitive dysfunction, hallucinations, loss of control, irritability, aggression, rage, paranoia, hopelessness, a sense of impending emotional breakdown, self-mutilation, and suicidal ideation and behaviour.”

The laws pertaining to solitary confinement were found by the Court to be overbroad and damaging to institutional security. Furthermore, the Court held that the laws authorizing solitary confinement do so in circumstances where lesser forms of restriction would achieve the same results.

The Court ruled that a procedure of prisoner segregation must include time limits. Time limits would “create the pressure to ensure that decisions about alleviating an inmate’s segregation were made and implemented promptly, while still allowing CSC to use the practice for short periods to address security concerns.”

International consensus has determined that 15 days is an ideal cap for segregation placements. Justice Leask did not prescribe a set number of days, but considered 15 days “a defensible standard”.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Justice Leask suspended his decision for 12 months to give the government time to draft new legislation, which must include strict limits on the amount of time an inmate can be segregated.

This B.C. decision requires broader legislative changes than the ruling made by the Ontario Superior Court last month, which we previously blogged about. In the Ontario case, the Judge held that the lack of independent review of prisoners placed in solitary confinement means that there is no accountability for the decision to segregate. Justice Marrocco put his decision on hold for a year to allow Parliament to make the legislative changes necessary. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association recently announced it would appeal this Ontario decision.

ORDER STOPPING ONTARIO FROM PLACING MENTALLY ILL INMATES IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

One day following this B.C. decision, Ontario announced an agreement between the Ontario government and the Human Rights Commission ensuring that inmates with mental health disabilities will no longer be placed in solitary confinement across the province.

This Order includes the process of properly identifying inmates with mental health disabilities (including those at risk of self-harm or suicide) and issuing appropriate alerts verified by professionals. The alert would indicate that alternatives to segregation must be considered for the particular inmate.

We will continue to follow the developments in the law regarding solitary confinement in Canada and will provide updates through this blog.

In the meantime, should you have any questions regarding your legal rights and need to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer please call Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services.

Court Finds that Solitary Confinement Laws are Unconstitutional

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We have previously blogged about solitary confinement in Canada and are revisiting this issue given the recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court striking down Canada’s solitary confinement laws as unconstitutional following a three year challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

WHAT HAPPENED?

In the court case, lawyers for the CCLA requested a declaration that sections 31 to 37 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (“CCRA”), which allow the Correction Service of Canada to remove an inmate from the general population for a non-disciplinary reason, are unconstitutional as they infringe upon the rights granted in sections 7, 11(h) and 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter”).

This application referred specifically to administrative segregation, the purpose of which is to maintain the security of the penitentiary and of all persons within the penitentiary. Under the current legislation, a warden is allowed to order solitary confinement when an inmate is at risk from others or poses a risk to the security of the prison. When this occurs, inmates are ordered to spend 22 hours in a cell without any meaningful human contact. There is no cap on the length of time that segregation occurs in the legislation.

Under the current legislative system, prison wardens are responsible for the initial decision to place an inmate in solitary confinement and are involved in the internal tribunal assembled five days later to study and judge that decision. Justice Marrocco found that this lack of independent review means that there is no accountability for the decision to segregate.

CURRENT SEGREGATION PROCESS IS “PROCEDURALLY UNFAIR AND CONTRARY TO THE PRINCIPLES OF FUNDAMENTAL JUSTICE”

Justice Marrocco ruled that this arbitrary and potentially biased system is improper given the severe deprivation of liberty and security of the person that takes place when an inmate is segregated. These are two rights guaranteed under section 7 of the Charter.

Justice Marrocco wrote:

I am satisfied that the statutory review of the decision to segregate is procedurally unfair and contrary to the principles of fundamental justice because the procedure chosen provides that the Institutional Head is the final decision maker for admission, maintenance and release from administrative segregation and is the final institutional decision-maker of required reviews and hearings which occur immediately after an inmate is segregated.

However, Marrocco stated that banning the practice immediately could be disruptive and dangerous. Therefore, Justice Marrocco put his declaration on hold for a year, which he felt was a reasonable time frame to allow Parliament to address the situation.

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS BY JUSTICE MARROCCO

The CCLA argued for a 15-day limit on solitary confinements, a prohibition on the isolation of mentally ill inmates, and, a rule barring prisoners aged 18 to 21 from solitary lockups.

Regarding the effect of solitary confinement, Justice Marrocco agreed with CCLA and wrote that “placing an inmate in administrative segregation imposes a psychological stress, quite capable of producing serious permanent observable negative mental health effects”. He, however, did not find that solitary confinement itself to be unconstitutional, even when applied to inmates aged 18 to 21 or the mentally ill. He rejected any argument that this practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Marrocco also refused to declare placement in solitary confinement for more than 15 days to be unconstitutional.

The CCLA launched this constitutional application shortly after the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCLA) and the John Howard Society of Canada filed a similar, but unrelated, lawsuit in Vancouver. A ruling in the B.C. case is expected within the next three months.

We will continue to follow the developments in the law with regards to solitary confinement in Canada and will provide updates through this blog.

In the meantime, should you have any questions regarding your legal rights and need to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer please call Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We are here to help you 24/7.

Recommendations for Changes to Inmate Conditions in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We have previously blogged about inmate conditions in Canada, and are now revisiting this topic in light of the recent annual report by Correctional Investigator, Ivan Zinger, submitted in Parliament on October 31, 2017.

Mr. Zinger visited numerous correctional institutions to observe and investigate the current conditions. His report outlines in detail his observations and numerous recommendations, a few of which we will discuss below.

NO THERAPEUTIC TREATMENT FACILITIES FOR FEMALE FEDERAL INMATES

Female offenders were found to be the fastest growing population in Canadian correctional facilities. Many of these inmates are struggling with serious mental illness, some of whom partake in self-injurious or suicidal behaviour.

Unfortunately there are no stand-alone treatment facilities for federal female inmates in Canada. In an emergency situation, some mentally ill women are being transferred to an all-male treatment centre to receive the help that they need. Mr. Zinger stated, “It’s just unacceptable. You do not put a woman in an all-male institution, completely isolated in segregation-like conditions.” Mr. Zinger is recommending that in cases of complex or significant mental illness, female inmates should be placed in external psychiatric hospitals.

The Correctional Service of Canada (“CSC”) responded to Mr. Zinger’s comments by stating that it proposes to put into practice that men’s treatment facilities only be used to handle mentally ill women “in emergency circumstances” and only for short periods of time. The CSC advised that it has an external expert looking into women’s mental health needs.

PROBLEMATIC USE OF SEGREGATION

The number of inmates placed in solitary confinement and the length of their stays have decreased significantly; however, Mr. Zinger reported that the conditions of segregation remain problematic. According to Mr. Zinger’s observations, some solitary confinement cells lack appropriate ventilation, windows, natural light, and he found that the outdoor segregation “yards” were bare concrete pens topped with razor wire.

There is a bill currently making its way through Parliament to address these types of issues entitled Bill C-56 An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act. This proposed legislation includes a 15-day reasonable limit on segregation stays and includes crucial improvements to conditions of confinement in segregation. Mr. Zinger promises to participate in the review process of this bill.

INABILITY TO MANAGE SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS

The Correctional Investigator found that the use of physical restraints, clinical seclusion, suicide watch, and segregation to manage people with serious psychological difficulties remains problematic. Placing suicidal or distressed people in observation cells that minimally provide for the necessities of life fails to recognize that confinement of this nature may promote psychological distress.

Mr. Zinger recommends that CSC review its policies and practices for the treatment of prisoners, specifically related to health care services, solitary confinement, and instruments of constraint. Furthermore, it is suggested that external psychiatric hospital placements be utilized in cases of complex or significant mental illness.

PRISON FOOD

Prison food was found to be one of the factors that triggered the Saskatchewan Penitentiary riot in December 2016. One inmate was killed and eight others were injured. Approximately 200 medium security prisoners took part in the riot, which reportedly caused $3.6 million in damage.

Expenditures for food in Canadian prisons has been decreasing. The daily cost for food apportioned to each inmate is specified at $5.41. Mr. Zinger’s report noted that there are many complaints related to portion size, quality, selection, and substitution of food items. Mr. Zinger recommends that an external audit and evaluation of CSC food services be conducted and that the inmates concerns regarding food services be heard and addressed. The audit should include comparison of ration and per diem meal costs, prior to and after introduction of the food services modernization initiative.

RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING TATTOOING

Tattooing is a banned practice in federal institutions. However, tattooing continues to occur behind bars, resulting in sharing and reusing unsterile homemade tattooing equipment. Prohibited tattooing has been associated with higher rates of infections, including Hepatitis C and HIV. There is also the risk of infecting corrections staff when they come in contact with used needles as there is no safe means for disposal.

Mr. Zinger recommends that CSC reintroduce safe tattooing as a national program in federal institutions. This program would provide important employment opportunities for inmates while incarcerated and marketable skills upon release into the community. More importantly, this program could minimize the risk of transmission of infectious diseases.

We will continue to follow developments in this matter and blog about updates as they become available.

At Affleck & Barrison LLP in Oshawaour firm and its predecessors have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Toronto Inmate Alleges He Was Subject to Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An inmate at the Toronto South Detention Centre has alleged that he was subject to cruel and unusual punishment by court and jail staff. The inmate told City News that he spent two weeks with untreated broken bones and was denied treatment, trips to the hospital, and an x-ray by correctional staff.

What Happened?

The inmate broke his hand in a fight with another inmate in the holding cells at the College Park courthouse in Toronto in July. Court officers, employed by Toronto police, broke up the fight, but the inmate claims they then denied his request to go to the hospital to get treated. The officers allegedly asked the inmate whether he wanted to get medical treatment for his hand, but when he responded in the affirmative, they told him “There’s no getting out of here” and returned him to a holding cell.

Once in the Detention Centre, he saw a doctor at the facility, who informed him that he needed an x-ray, but that there was no x-ray machine on the premises. However, the inmate was never taken off the premises to receive the x-ray.

The inmate went back to court for another a scheduled bail hearing twelve days after the fight. At that hearing, the inmate’s lawyer requested that the inmate’s condition be put on the record, along with the fact that the injury occurred in the cells at College Park. The Crown attorney went on the record and indicated that he saw swelling and

The Crown attorney went on the record and indicated that he saw swelling and discoloration on the inmate’s hand and that it appeared to be lacking circulation. The Crown attorney also confirmed that the injury looked acute. The presiding justice of the peace ordered that the inmate be taken to a hospital, but that request was allegedly ignored.

The inmate claims that court officers told him that many people come to court with broken arms and legs and that the only time something is done about it is “when somebody can’t breathe or it’s a life and death situation”. The special constables at the court house were allegedly informed that it was “not their job” to help the inmate.

The inmate then spent the weekend following the bail hearing dealing with the pain while the Detention Centre was on lockdown. He claims he told corrections officers that he was in pain and that his hand was changing colours.

The inmate is now in a cast but was not able to get one until he was released and immediately went to the emergency room.

Response by Toronto Police and Correctional Services Canada

A Toronto police spokeswoman confirmed the inmate’s account of the fight, and said that Toronto Police initially offered assistance, but that the inmate refused both police assistance and medical care. She also noted that the police have no notes from the bail hearing.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services told CityNews that it will not publicly address individual cases, particularly where the personal health matters of inmates are involved, but did note that “all inmates have access to health care services”. The Ministry said that it will investigate all allegations of improper care and custody of an inmate.

We have been blogging regularly about prison conditions in Canada and will continue to do so going forward. In the meantime, if you have questions about your legal rights, either during detention or otherwise, contact the skilled Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP. Our team has extensive experience defending a wide range of criminal charges. Whatever your issue, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947or contact us online for a free consultation.

Recent Stats Show Marked Drop in Use of Solitary Confinement Across Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We’ve regularly been blogging about prison conditions and the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities across Canada. Today, the Globe and Mail reports that federal prisons have recorded a significant drop in the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement, following the implementation of new rules that bar certain vulnerable individuals from being put in isolation cells.

New Correctional Service of Canada Policies Introduced

Two significant Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) policies (Commissioner’s Directive 709 and Commissioner’s Directive 843) underwent major revisions, both effective August 1 of this year.

Following these changes, several categories of inmate can no longer be held in solitary confinement, including those who are imminently suicidal, self-harming, seriously mentally ill, physically disabled, terminally ill, or pregnant.

In addition, those prisoners who do end up in solitary confinement will have several new rights, including an allowance of two hours out of their cells (an increase from the one hour they were previously afforded).

These new changes come in the wake of significant public outcry over the use of solitary confinement and subsequent scrutiny of the CSC’s segregation practices. Starting in 2014, the Globe and Mail has reported extensively on the use of solitary confinement, and its effects on inmates. Following the first of these stories, the CSC launched a strategy to attempt to reduce the number of inmates housed in isolation.

In January 2015, the John Howard Society of Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) sued the federal government, and in the trial that began last month in the B.C. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs argued that solitary confinement amounts to torture.

Updated Statistics on Solitary Confinement

Data obtained by the Globe and Mail shows that, as of August 2, 2017 (one day following the implementation of the new policies), the CSC held 301 inmates in “administrative segregation” (the CSC’s term for solitary confinement).

This marks a significant decrease from 399 inmates that were held in solitary confinement in June, and the average of 800 inmates three years ago.

The total number of segregation admissions has fallen from 8,522 in 2014/2015 to 6,261 in 2016/2017.

A CSC spokesperson told the Globe and Mail that the reduction of segregated inmates comes largely from the CSC’s increased efforts to divert inmates with mental-health issues to “more therapeutic environments where their needs can be addressed”. She noted further, that the impact of the amended Directives has yet to be assessed.

Reaction to the Policy Change

Despite this decrease, some observers of the prison system continue to have concerns about how these decreases were achieved, and how easily the numbers could revert back to their previous high.

The Federal Prisons Ombudsman, Ivan Zinger, who provided the data to the Globe, noted that he has some concerns, and that he is going to put a strategy in place to monitor how the policies will be applied.

Gord Robertson, the second national vice-president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has said that the additional one hour inmates are able to spend outside of their cell might be “tricky” to implement. He notes that many facilities do not have the physical space to permit every inmate to have two hours of recreation time. Making this change could mean either adding staff, or building additional infrastructure to accommodate everyone.

Catherine Latimer, the Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Canada has noted that inmates complain regularly that they are being woken up when it is still dark to get “yard time”. If an inmate chooses not to go out in the early morning, they generally will not get another chance for yard time for another 24 hours.

Dr. Zinger notes that the lack of resources and staff in many facilities means that segregated inmates are often asked to take their recreation time along with other segregated inmates. This is generally not an issue, unless inmates do not feel safe spending rec time with others. If this happens, the inmate is marked as “declining exercise”.

A Step in the Right Direction

Ms. Latimer notes that barring certain groups from being held in segregation is a “step in the right direction”, but that she would rather see such measures enshrined in law, rather than in a policy. This is echoed by Dr. Zinger, who has said

Those kinds of protections should really be in legislation rather than in policy directions that can be changed rather easily.

Dr. Zinger further anticipates that as the number of inmates held in segregation continues to decline, those who remain in isolation will be the “really difficult cases”.

The Liberal government has also introduced legislative changes to segregation through Bill C-56; however, the proposed legislation does not mention any prohibitions on vulnerable groups in segregation.

We will continue to follow developments in this matter. In the meantime, if you have questions about your rights, contact the criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP in Oshawa. Our firm and its predecessors have been protecting client’s legal rights since 1992. We are highly knowledgeable and extremely experienced at defending a wide range of criminal charges. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation.

B.C Inmate Tells Court About Harrowing Experience in Solitary Confinement

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week we blogged about a trial that began at the B.C Supreme Court, reviewing the legality of Canada’s use of solitary confinement. The trial continues this week with testimony from inmates, including one inmate who told the court that he “felt like dying” while in solitary.

Testimony Begins

In 2015, the B.C Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada jointly sued the federal government over the use of solitary confinement (often referred to as “administrative segregation”).

James Lee Busch, a prisoner at B.C’s Mission Institution, is one of six inmates expected to take part in the trial and testify about their experience with solitary confinement.

Mr. Busch stated that he has been in solitary confinement eight times: three times while serving a sentence for aggravated sexual assault, and five times since he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2010. Mr. Busch testified that he has spent nearly all of his adult life in prison, on probation, or on parole, and still struggles with his experiences in solitary.

His longest stay in solitary was 66 days, when he was at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in 2009. He was placed in solitary for passing a guard a note inviting her to call him once he was released and cursing a psychologist who wanted to prescribe him psychotropic medication (which he has had negative experiences with in the past).

Suicidal Feelings in Solitary

Mr. Busch’s 66-day period of solitary confinement began in October 2009, during which time he would spend 23 hours a day in a small cell. Almost immediately, Mr. Busch said he felt depressed, and that suicidal feelings began “almost as soon as the door of the cell closed behind [him]”. Prior to entering solitary, Mr. Busch had been taking high-school equivalency courses and was close to nearly graduating. While he was in solitary, he could not attend classes, and eventually lost motivation.

Mr. Busch’s segregation was reviewed four times during the period he was there, but it was not made clear how he was a threat to the institution. During his second review, Mr. Busch says he asked to be returned to the general population, as he knew that his mental state was deteriorating. His request was not granted.

During his third review, which occurred on Day 54 of the solitary confinement, Mr. Busch says he told the reviewers that he “felt like dying”. Mr. Busch further said that once he agreed to take the psychotropic medication that was originally prescribed to him, he was released into general population. He believes that his stay in solitary confinement was used to “coerce” him into taking the medication.

Mr. Busch testified that:

“I know that I have committed crimes and that I deserve to be punished for them. But, I am still part of this Canadian community and I do not believe that any Canadian deserves to suffer the consequences of segregation”

We’ve blogged regularly about prison conditions in Canada. We will continue to follow developments in this trial as it unfolds, and will provide updates as they become available.

The Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled team has extensive experience defending a wide range of criminal charges. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation

BC Supreme Court to Review Legality of Canada’s Use of Solitary Confinement

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A trial that began in British Columbia’s Supreme Court this week could potentially impact the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons.

The Trial: A Brief Backgrounder

At the core of the trial is a challenged filed against the federal government by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the John Howard Society of Canada, who argue that current rules around solitary confinement are inhumane and unconstitutional.

The federal government recently introduced a 15-day limit on solitary confinement; however, Josh Paterson, the Executive Director of the BCCLA, has said that this limit is merely a guideline beyond which a prison warden can provide justification in order to keep someone in confinement. Mr. Paterson has stated:

It amounts to no time limit at all. What we need to see is absolute time limits and caps because as we’ve seen, without a time limit the federal government has kept people in solitary confinement for years on end on the warden’s say-so… We know the new government is trying to make some changes. We don’t think it’s good enough and that’s why we’re continuing with this court case.

Notably, the United Nations considers solitary confinement for more than 15 days to be torture.

The Use of Solitary Confinement in Canada

There are currently two types of solitary confinement used in Canadian prisons:

  • Disciplinary segregation: segregation used as a punishment. This form of segregation requires a hearing, and has a time limit of 45 days.
  • Administrative segregation: segregation used more broadly, generally where inmates are in danger, either from other inmates or from self-harm.

The challenge specifically addresses administrative segregation, and follows a settlement that the BCCLA won for a Saskatchewan woman who had been held in solitary confinement in a British Columbia prison for more than 3.5 years. This case also follows public outrage over the plight of Adam Capay, a young inmate who spent almost 4 years detained alone in a plexiglass basement cell in the Thunder Bay District Jail here in Ontario.

Experts say that women, particularly indigenous and mentally ill women, are disproportionately affected by the negative aspects of solitary confinement. While women only comprise about 20% of the Canadian prison population, they are more likely than men to self-harm, and therefore more likely to end up in administrative segregation.

We’ve regularly blogged about solitary confinement and prison conditions. The issue of solitary confinement is now being investigated at all levels of government, in multiple jurisdictions, including by the Ontario Ombudsman, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the federal government, and now the B.C Supreme Court. We will continue to follow developments in this trial, and will provide updates as they become available.

At Affleck & Barrison LLP in Oshawa, our firm and its predecessors have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation

Hunger Strike Over Conditions at Correctional Centre in Lindsay Continues for Second Week

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An inmate at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario is now in his second week of a hunger strike. Other inmates at the facility say that the hunger striker (Harley Guindon of Oshawa) is the last of approximately thirty prisoners who stopped eating last week to protest what they say are unsanitary conditions and poor medical treatment at the facility.

Alleged Conditions at the Correctional Centre

In a telephone interview with DurhamRegion.com, Mr. Guindon said that he is not ready to end his strike yet. He claims that the correctional facility has a number of health and safety issues including “rusty cell vents” that blow “air that is not sanitary” and an air intake vent that has not worked in years.

The president of OPSEU Local 368, representing 700 members including correctional workers says that he supports the prisoners’ complaints about sanitation and medical care, but disagrees about their method of protest.

The union president said that air quality at the facility has “always been a concern” for both inmates and staff. Mold has been a common issue due to lack of ventilation.  The local raised its own concerns with management years ago and advocated for two additional cleaners to be hired, as there is currently only four cleaners for the whole facility, which takes up ten acres.

Medical care at the facility has also been a cause for concern for the local, and the union agrees with inmates about what they consider to be a lack of medical staff at the facility. The correctional centre has cut one of their doctors from the staff, and the facility now has only one physician for more than 1000 inmates.

Jail Conditions Across Ontario

Prison conditions across Ontario have been in the news recently, with the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) travelling around the province and meeting with inmates and municipal leaders, and the Ontario Ombudsman also conducting an independent investigation.

We will continue to monitor developments with both the OHRC and the Ombudsman investigations and will blog about prison conditions as more information becomes available.

At Affleck & Barrison our firm and its predecessors have been representing clients charged with criminal offences and protecting their rights since 1992.  Our Oshawa criminal lawyers are extremely knowledgeable and are experienced at defending a wide range of charges.  Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.