Ontario called on to end segregation of mentally ill prisoners
An inmate segregation room is shown during a media tour of the Toronto South Detention Centre in Toronto on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is calling on the provincial government to ban the use of segregation in its jails for people with mental illness, except in exceptional circumstances.
It has filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the government breached a 2013 settlement that required it to implement major segregation reforms.
Ontario’s adviser on corrections reform called in an interim report in May for an end to the use of segregation for chronically self-harming, suicidal and diagnosed significantly mentally ill people.
Howard Sapers said that despite the government revising segregation policies in 2015, including for mentally ill inmates, the proportion of that population in segregation has actually increased.
Those policy changes followed a human rights settlement the government made with a mentally ill woman who had spent more than 200 days in segregation at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
The human rights commission alleges the provincial government has breached the legally binding settlement by not ensuring mentally ill inmates are not placed in segregation unless officials can demonstrate that all other alternatives have been considered.
Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde says she is deeply concerned by the issues raised by the commission and says she is committed to implementing all the remedies in that settlement.