Advertisement

Placing jailed youth in solitary confinement is ‘unjust’: B.C. ombudsperson

Jay Chalke speaks during a press conference in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, April 6, 2017. A three-year investigation in to placing youth in custody centres in solitary confinement has led British Columbia's ombudsperson to label the practice as "unjust and unsafe." HE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito. CAH

VICTORIA – A three-year investigation by British Columbia’s ombudsperson concludes the provincial government’s practice of placing jailed youth in solitary confinement is “unjust and unsafe.”

Jay Chalke, whose office investigates complaints against provincial and local authorities, says in a release that the confinement also disproportionately impacts Indigenous youth.

Click to play video: 'Court rules against indefinite solitary confinement' Court rules against indefinite solitary confinement
Court rules against indefinite solitary confinement – Jan 18, 2018

Chalke says B.C.’s laws should be changed to boost oversight abilities and to set a maximum of 22 hours that the youth, aged 12 from to 17, can be placed in solitary.

Story continues below advertisement

B.C. has two youth custody centres in Prince George and Burnaby, and the study found the average duration of confinement increased over a three-year period, including in one case when a youth spent 78 out of 81 days in solitary.

The report makes 26 recommendations, ranging from amending B.C.’s Youth Justice Act to providing better care for prisoners with mental health issues.

Click to play video: 'BC Civil Liberties Association on solitary confinement ruling' BC Civil Liberties Association on solitary confinement ruling
BC Civil Liberties Association on solitary confinement ruling – Jan 7, 2019

In response to the report, Children and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean says B.C. is developing a framework to improve and modernize its youth justice system.

Dean says the ministry accepts the “spirit and intent of the recommendations” and will incorporate them into its youth justice framework.

Read more: Solitary confinement lawsuit given class-action green light by B.C. Supreme Court

Story continues below advertisement

“Both the child welfare system and the justice system are overly involved in the lives of Indigenous people, children and families. It is part of the damaging colonial legacy that continues to this day – and as part of our commitment to reconciliation, we need to address it head on,” she says in a statement.

Chalke says he’s encouraged that the ministry has accepted the recommendations but the lack of urgency by government is concerning.

“It is time to give these issues – and these young people – the priority they need,” Chalke said in a statement.

Despite a drop in the number of youths being placed into the province’s two detention centres from 2017 to 2019, the report notes the duration of isolation rose and Indigenous youth accounted for more than half of the solitary confinement incidents.

“These practices of isolation can create a self-reinforcing cycle in which the harmful effects of isolation make it harder for a person to be in a non-isolated environment, and so isolation is more likely to continue,” the report says.

The report also calls for an end to isolating youth under the age of 16.

 

Sponsored content