Courts & Trials

Solitary Confinement Continues in Canada Despite News Laws

Written on behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As we have previously blogged, Bill C-83 was the Liberal government’s response to political pressure in Canada to end the practice of solitary confinement.  This bill provided for minimum daily allowances of time outside of solitary, four hours in total including two hours with “meaningful human contact”, and the introduction of structured intervention units (“SIUs”).  Federal inmates are transferred to SIUs if they are found to pose a security threat to themselves, others or the institution. 

CRIMINOLOGIST REPORT

A recent report published by criminologists, Anthony Doob and Jane Sprott, with data from the Correctional Service of Canada (“CSC”) has concluded that solitary confinement is still occurring in prisons across Canada and the report describes some practices as “torture”.

The data has divulged that 79% of those restricted to SIUs did not receive the required four hours outside of their cells per day for over half of the duration of their stay.  It was also revealed that 56% of prisoners did not receive the mandated two hours of meaningful interaction outside of their cells for over half of their duration of their stay.

According to the research, 28% of prisoners who were confined to SIUs spent 22 or more hours per day in their cells with no meaningful human contact.  Even more disturbing is that 9.9% of SIU prisoners were held in this type of confinement for more than 15 days.  These findings are regarded as “solitary confinement” under the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules).  Under the Mandela Rules, this practice is considered a form of “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

According to Jane Sprott, a criminology professor at Ryerson University:

It’s like a prison within a prison.  It’s a little more off-steer, it’s more isolated.  You’re in that cell and if you’re out for less than two hours, that means your main interaction for the day is getting food pushed through a food slot.

CSC Spokeswoman, Esther Malihot (“Malihot”), explained that SIUs are a temporary measure to help inmates “adopt more positive behaviours that keep the institution, as a whole, safe and secure”.  The CSC confirms that although SIU inmates have access to programs and services similar to other inmates and receive daily visits from staff, some inmates stay in the SIU longer “if they refuse to leave”.

In response to Sprott and Doob’s latest research, Malihot stated:

As we continue to learn and make adjustments, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure the success of this new correctional model while we fulfill our mandate of ensuring the safe rehabilitation of federal inmates in Canada.

According to Doob, the government’s response is “vague, and from my perspective, unsatisfactory”. 

CORONER’S INQUEST ORDERED AND $14.3 MILLION CIVIL LAWSUIT FILED

In other news regarding Canada’s correctional services, a coroner’s inquest has been ordered and the family of a deceased inmate has filed a $14.3 million dollar civil lawsuit against the province of Ontario, the correctional centre superintendent and seven staff members alleging that “excessive force” was used against their loved one.

Soleiman Faqiri (“Soleiman”), who suffered from schizophrenia, died in December 15, 2016 in a segregation cell at a provincial detention centre in Lindsay, Ontario.  He was awaiting a transfer to a mental health facility after being held on allegations of stabbing a neighbour with an “edged weapon”.  He allegedly became agitated and resistant as guards tried to force him inside his new cell. 

A police report revealed that Soleiman had been pepper-sprayed twice, shackled by leg irons, had a spit hood placed over his head and he was left face down on the floor in handcuffs before guards found him to be unresponsive.  A coroner’s report revealed that his body had been covered in cuts and bruises with more than 50 signs of “blunt impact trauma”.

An eyewitness inmate contained in a cell across from Soleiman’s cell described Soleiman enduring punches, kicks and blows and one of the guards pressing his knee into Soleiman’s neck. 

Local police and Ontario Provincial Police did not arrest anyone involved in Soleiman’s death.  According to the Faqiris family, they were told by the OPP that no charges were laid as it is impossible to know which guard performed which act leading to Soleiman’s death.  In a statement by the OPP to CBC News:

After a thorough assessment of the available evidence, it has been determined that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction on any criminal offences.

We will continue to follow developments in the matter of solitary confinement in Canada and any news with respect to Soleiman Faqiris’ coroner’s inquest and will blog about these updates as they become available.

The Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP and its predecessors 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 criminal offence, we can help.  Please call us today at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation.