CANADIAN EFFORTS TO REFORM SOLITARY
During recent years, solitary confinement and related issues pertaining to inhumane conditions in Ontario’s jails and prisons have garnered widespread media attention. The Globe and Mail Editorial Board, for example, stated that “the more one learns about Ontario’s irresponsible use of solitary confinement, the more it feels as if that irresponsibility has veered into criminal neglect.” The Ontario Human Rights Commission called for a ban on segregation in Ontario’s jails, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada also called for the abolition of solitary confinement, stating that the “negative consequences of sensory deprivation can be seen as early as 48 hours.”
The Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dubé, has called segregation “soul-crushing, cruel and counter-productive” practice that must stop.” Ombudsman Dubé issued written submission to the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) on segregation in 2016 entitled “Segregation: Not an Isolated Problem.” In 2016, the MCSCS, which operates and monitors Ontario’s adult correctional institutions and probation and parole offices, called for a report from an independent advisor on corrections reform. That report, Segregation in Ontario: Independent Review of Ontario Corrections, was released by Advisor Howard Sapers in March 2017. The report examines the use of segregation (solitary confinement) in Ontario’s adult correctional facilities and makes 41 recommendations about how Ontario should reform its use of segregation. Because MCSCS does not have jurisdiction over individuals below the age of 18, the report’s recommendations do not pertain directly to youth. However, the report’s recommendations include banning solitary for individuals who are suicidal, individuals who have been diagnosed with significant mental illness, those with medical conditions, and pregnant women.
Dubé noted that, after submitting “Segregation: Not an Isolated Problem” to the Ministry, serious systemic concerns and complaints persisted. In December 2016, the Ombudsman’s Office launched an investigation into how the MCSCS tracked the admission and placement of segregated inmates, and the adequacy and effectiveness of the review process. In a April 2017 report, “Out of Oversight, Out of Mind,” Ombudsman Dubé released the results of this investigation, concluding that MCSCS’s “tracking and review of segregation placements is unreasonable, wrong, oppressive, and contrary to law under the Ombudsman Act.”
CANADA PHYSICIANS AGAINST SOLITARY FOR YOUTH
In March 2017, the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) released a statement on solitary confinement. CFPC is the professional organization responsible for establishing standards for the training and certification of family physicians and represents more than 35,000 members. CFPC supports ending solitary confinement in Canadian correctional facilities, abolishing solitary for youth, for those who suffer from medical conditions and mental illness, and abolishing solitary confinement for disciplinary purposes since evidence shows it is not effective.