‘Ottawa’ Segregation Reports From Innes Road Paint Bleak Picture
An inmate who spent at least 530 days in solitary confinement was just one of at least 80 prisoners locked up in segregation over a five-month period at Ottawa’s jail in 2014, internal reports reveal.
The nearly 18 months the male inmate spent locked up alone is more than 35 times the 15 days recommended under the United Nations “Mandela Rules” for how much time prisoners should spend in solitary confinement.
The internal Segregation/Detention Review reports, which were obtained through a freedom-of-information request, paint a bleak portrait of life inside the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre and outline the reasons why some inmates spend at least 23 hours a day locked down in a solitary cell.
The analysis revealed:
At least 37 of the inmates suffered from mental health issues and were referred to the jail’s psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health nurse. In at least three cases, inmates appeared to only be referred to the jail’s psychologist after they had already spent a full month in solitary confinement. That included a female inmate who refused to consent to a search that started displaying “unpredictable behaviour” after 20 days in segregation.
An inmate who was deemed incompatible for a regular living unit because he was “developmentally challenged” and unable to write submissions or formulate ideas appears to have spent two months in segregation before being referred to the psychologist. Yet another was placed in solitary for security reasons after exhibiting “bizarre behaviour” because of apparent mental health issues.
In many instances, the psychologist requested an inmate remain segregated. In one case, an inmate remained in segregation, apparently at his own request, even though the psychology unit concluded there was no longer a reason he needed to be there.
At least 13 of the inmates were threatening suicide when they went into segregation.
At least 14 were held for misconduct or disciplinary reasons. One was offered a move to minimum security if his behaviour improved. Still more were simply considered “incompatible” for regular living units.
Other were placed in segregation for their own safety. That included one inmate who reportedly had a hit out on his life and another who feared for his well-being after media reports about his alleged crimes. Some refused to live in certain pods and needed to be held in solitary confinement until a bed opened up in their preferred location.
Some were segregated in the health care unit for injuries such as broken hand or foot. One spent a month in segregation because they had tested positive for tuberculosis.
Several inmates were held in segregation after exhibiting violent or threatening behaviour. One inmate with suspected mental health issues threw urine at staff and threatened to assault them when his meal hatch was opened. A sergeant noted the inmate was told his “non compliance with ministry rules is not improving his situation.” Another mentally ill inmate had “extreme thoughts of harming others” while a third had been accused of starting a riot at the Quinte Detention Centre.
Nearly half of the inmates were in solitary confinement at their own request. The inmate who spent 530 days in segregation was initially placed there for security reasons, but decided to stay because of the nature of the charges he was facing.
The reports were provided to this paper by Toronto-area law articling student Simon Wallace.
Wallace made a freedom-of-information request for the Segregation Decision/Review forms that jail managers are required to fill out after an inmate spends 30 days in solitary confinement. Wallace requested the forms for jails across Ontario between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014.
The reports from Ottawa were among those with the least amount of detail provided, often times with jail managers providing mandatory five-day updates with single-word reasons. Only a handful of the requests for continued segregation by the jail were rejected by the regional manager.
There were 130 reports related to the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre over the six-month period. They don’t include inmates who were placed in segregation for periods of less than 30 days.
The names of the inmates were removed, but an analysis of the dates the inmates were segregated and other details showed that more than 40 of the reports were for inmates who spent months on end in segregation and appeared more than once.
Solitary confinement at the Ottawa jail has been under a spotlight recently, after accused sexual predator Yousef Hussein committed suicide in solitary confinement after refusing a move out of the jail. Another inmate, Mutiur Rehman, was found unfit to stand trial after 18 months in solitary.
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said solitary confinement is sometimes necessary to ensure the health, safety and security of staff and inmates.
Currently, ministry policy states that segregation is not used for inmates with mental illness or intellectual disability unless it can be determined that all other alternatives to segregation have been considered and rejected.
However, the province is hoping to make changes to ensure solitary confinement is used only as a last resort.
The province is currently conducting what it describes as a comprehensive review of the policies surrounding segregation to identify areas for change. The review’s findings are expected to be made public in the summer.
Recommendations from groups such as the John Howard Society and Ontario Human Rights Commission dealing with alternatives to segregation and improved tracking, strengthened monitoring, and enhanced mental health supports are being considered as part of the segregation review.
The ministry said the most common reason for inmates to be placed in segregation is because they asked for it. The least common reason was for misconduct.