TORONTO – Ontario is launching a review of the solitary confinement policy in provincial jails.
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services review will look at how segregation practices interact with other mental-health policies. Consultations with mental health experts, civil liberty groups, correctional staff and others are set to begin this summer.
Minister Yasir Naqvi said he hopes the process will be complete within a year but it’s partly dependent on the bargaining process with public sector workers that is already underway. He said the several months it will take before a consultation process is started is for “preparatory work.”
“In order for us to do proper consultation we need to make sure that we do important background work,” he said.
On any given day about 7,700 people are in custody in Ontario’s 26 institutions and about five per cent are in segregation, the ministry said. All inmates placed in segregation have their placement reviewed after 24 hours and every five days thereafter, Naqvi said.
“We will obviously continue to follow those important guidelines, but we wanted to make sure that as part of … making sure that we are providing the right supports for inmates with mental health challenges, to ensure safety of our staff and inmates that we do a comprehensive review of our segregation policy,” he said.
A coroner’s inquest last year into the death of Ashley Smith in an Ontario women’s prison recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada abolish indefinite solitary confinement and prohibit placement of women in segregation for longer than 15 days.
© 2015 The Canadian Press