Ontario’s Ombudsman has released a scathing report on the use of segregation in correctional facilities. The investigation found serious problems including failing to properly track inmates. One ministry official told investigators “we probably track livestock better than we do human beings.”
Rick Osborne, once one of Canada’s most wanted criminals, spent 25 years behind bars throughout his life. At one point he spent 8 months straight in segregation.
“The light would never go off and so your biggest friend was your t-shirt, a washcloth, something you could put over your eyes to stop the light.”
Of the 8 000 prisoners in Ontario’s correctional facilities, about 560 are in segregation. That means for 22 hours a day prisoners are locked up with no other human contact.
Following a 6 month investigation, Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dube, found that jails regularly lose track of how long prisoners have spent in isolation. Including one Thunder Bay inmate who spent 4 years in segregation.
“The Ministry’s unreliable records at the time showed he had been in segregation for 50 days, when the real total was 1,591.” Paul Dubé, Ontario Ombudsman.
According to the United Nations, prisoners shouldn’t be isolation for more than 15 days at a time. Dube has put forward 32 recommendations, including a new tracking system that alerts front-line workers when solitary prisoners are up for review and to better train correctional staff.
Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde says the reports findings are unacceptable.
“We are also doing weekly review of the segregation, which was not taking place, we have also changed the disciplinary segregation from 30 days to 15 days and as I said we should do more.”
Dube also recommends segregation only be used as a last resort.