Ontario inmate out of segregation after four years in pre-trial custody

A Thunder Bay, Ont., inmate has been moved to a regular cell after spending four years in segregation. Digital Vision / File / Getty Images

TORONTO – An inmate who has been held in segregation for the past four years at a Thunder Bay, Ont., jail was moved to a regular cell on Wednesday.

Correctional Services Minister David Orazietti says Adam Capay is now in a standard cell, and unlike the previous Plexiglas cell where he spent the past 52 months in segregation, the lights can be dimmed.

The 23-year-old First Nations man now has access to a day room, telephone and television, but he does not have a cell mate and he will be kept separate from the general population, added Orazietti.

“We understand that Mr. Capay would rather be in this cell than be moved to another location or another institution” while he awaits trial on a murder charge in connection with the 2012 death of another inmate, he said.

READ MORE: Ontario ombudsman wants end to indefinite segregation in prisons

Orazietti admitted there is an “over-reliance on segregation in the correctional system,” but said inmates can ask to be held in isolation to protect themselves.

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New Democrat critic Jennifer French said the Supreme Court has ruled a “reasonable delay” in getting to trial should be no more than 30 months.

“Adam Capay has waited nearly twice that long,” French said in the legislature. “Worst of all, it’s for a crime for which he has not yet been convicted.”

Capay’s case came to light after a guard tipped off Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane about his situation when she was visiting the 90-year-old Thunder Bay jail earlier this month.

“It is clear that his long-term isolation has negatively affected his mental health,” Mandhane said in a release. “For that prisoner, and others, this is an urgent life-and-death human rights issue.”

The human rights commissioner found that over a three-month period, about 19 per cent of prisoners in Ontario jails – 4,178 people – were placed in segregation at least once, and about 1,383 of them were for 15 days or more.

The government ordered a second review of the use of segregation in jails after receiving the results of a previous review earlier this month, which prompted Orazietti to announce a 15-consecutive-day limit on disciplinary segregation, down from 30. He wants to see segregation used only as a “means of last resort” in jail.

The province also wants a weekly segregation review committee created at each correctional institution to conduct case reviews of all inmates held in isolation.

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“Segregation is used across institutions in our correctional system, both at the request of an individual for their safety and for the safety of others in the institution,” Orazietti said.

There are many reasons for delays in getting a case to trial, said Orazietti, but Capay’s case is unusual for its length of pre-trial custody.

“The four years speaks to the fact that the court system and the crown attorneys need to bring cases as quickly as they can to court,” he said.

Earlier this year, the province’s ombudsman urged the government to end indefinite segregation, saying the office had received many complaints. The ombudsman also called on the government to keep no inmate in isolation for more than 60 days in a year.

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