Jail broke hu­man rights deal, in­mate says

Toronto South faces com­plaint from dis­abled man who says he was left in soli­tary with­out sup­plies


For more than three days this past March, Aaron Sher­man sat in soiled boxer shorts in a soli­tary unit at the Toronto South De­ten­tion Cen­tre, un­able to ac­cess clean clothes and sup­plies that he re­quires to have a proper bowel move­ment.

Three re­turn trips to the new jail also did not go well. In­stead of be­ing placed in a med­i­cal unit, he was asked if he would be “al­right in seg­re­ga­tion” for a cou­ple of days. He could not eat for five days. It wasn’t sup­posed to be this way. In 2015, Sher­man, 48, who has fought most of his adult life for jails to ac­com­mo­date his med­i­cal re­quire­ments, won a hu­man rights set­tle­ment that set out a plan to re­spect his rights and as­sure ac­cess to sup­plies.

Fed up with his ex­pe­ri­ences this year, Sher­man has filed a sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion with the On­tario Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal call­ing for the plan to be fol­lowed and rais­ing “se­ri­ous ques­tions” about the con­tin­ued use of soli­tary con­fine­ment at the new Toronto jail be­cause of a short­age of med­i­cal beds, his ap­pli­ca­tion states.

The Toronto man es­ti­mates he has spent a to­tal of17 years in jail, over the years, for prop­erty crimes, he says, rang­ing from mi­nor thefts to bur­gling homes and busi­nesses.

Sher­man can live with in­con­ve­niences, such as mi­nor vari­a­tions in the tim­ing of ac­cess to his sup­plies and treat­ment. But not soli­tary.

He knows some will think: “It’s jail, you know, suck it up,” but “when it’s sys­temic and it’s so prob­lem­atic that it’s hap­pen­ing week to week, it’s just too much,” Sher­man said in an in­ter­view. “I’m stuck in soli­tary con­fine­ment, what, be­cause I have a med­i­cal prob­lem?”

Tess Shel­don, a lawyer with ARCH Dis­abil­ity Law Cen­tre who is rep­re­sent­ing Sher­man, said in an email that “trag­i­cally, Aaron’s case is by no means iso­lated.”

On­tario in­mates are of­ten placed in seg­re­ga­tion be­cause of over­crowd­ing and lack of med­i­cal beds. Data re­cently sup­plied to the On­tario Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion showed 17 per cent of seg­re­ga­tion place- ments from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber 2015 were for “ad­min­is­tra­tive” med­i­cal rea­sons.

Ac­cord­ing to a sub­mis­sion by the Cana­dian Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion to the Min­istry of Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices, one in­mate spent 103 days in seg­re­ga­tion be­cause he used a walker — a de­vice that is con­sid­ered “con­tra­band” in the gen­eral jail pop­u­la­tion.

How the jail clas­si­fied Sher­man’s stay in seg­re­ga­tion is un­clear. The min­istry does not com­ment on in­di­vid­ual cases.

In a state­ment to the Star, the min­istry said it “would not be ap­pro­pri­ate to com- ment on or pro­vide de­tails about any in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal health in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, an in­mate’s care plan would de­tail any spe­cial re­quire­ments, ap­proaches and ac­com­mo­da­tions” and that is shared with staff.

When told of Sher­man’s case, Lisa Kerr, an as­sis­tant law pro­fes­sor at Queen’s Univer­sity, said “seg­re­ga­tion in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate med­i­cal treat­ment is not a per­mis­si­ble ground in On­tario.”

It could be that jails get around those rules “by us­ing seg­re­ga­tion but not nam­ing it as such,” Kerr said in an in­ter­view. She called for in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tors as­signed to jails “check­ing who’s in these cells and are they clas­si­fied prop­erly.” The On­tario govern­ment last month an­nounced re­forms on the use of seg­re­ga­tion and, in a state­ment re­cently emailed to the Star, the corrections min­istry said it would “con­tinue to work to en­sure all in­mates in seg­re­ga­tion, in­clud­ing those who are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble, will con­tinue to have ac­cess to the spe­cific sup­ports they need.”

In ad­di­tion to a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity, Sher­man, ac­cord­ing to his hu­man rights ap­pli­ca­tion, has men­tal-health dis­abil­i­ties and a “lived ex­pe­ri­ence of the psy­chi­atric sys­tem.” He uses crack co­caine and, to pay for it, he steals — and of­ten gets caught.

Sher­man was born with an im­per­fo­rate anus and since age 9 has been self-ad­min­is­ter­ing a salt­wa­ter en­ema treat­ment to have bowel move­ments, about once every two days. The process re­quires sup­plies and takes about an hour and a half and he must be near a toi­let for an­other four hours.

In 2015, fol­low­ing a 2014 hu­man rights com­plaint, a “writ­ten ac­com­mo­da­tion plan” was agreed to in a set­tle­ment with the cor­rec­tional ser­vices min­istry spell­ing out what Sher­man re­quired. The plan was to be placed in his file and an alert added to his com­put­er­ized pro­file.

The plan lists sup­plies, in­clud­ing ex­tra toi­let pa­per, three pairs of boxer shorts and backup jump­suit, sheets and towel. It re­quires the jail unit man­ager to be “fully aware” of the plan and to be the first con­tact for any prob­lems.

Sher­man makes metic­u­lous notes of his ex­pe­ri­ences in jail, in­clud­ing four stays at Toronto South this year — all due, he says, to shoplift­ing in­ci­dents. What fol­lows comes from al­le­ga­tions in Sher­man’s hu­man rights ap­pli­ca­tion.

On March 5, he was jailed and over­due for a treat­ment. He was placed in “Med­i­cal Unit A” but given in­com­plete sup­plies. He was re­leased from jail March 7.

He spent five days later that month at the jail, en­ter­ing March12, a Satur-

“(A) sys­temic fail­ure to trans­late poli­cies into on-the-ground ac­tion.” TESS SHEL­DON ARCH DIS­ABIL­ITY LAW CEN­TRE

day. He told a nurse he was two days over­due for a treat­ment and was told that Med­i­cal Unit A was full. At 4 p.m., he was “trans­ferred to a soli­tary con­fine­ment cell.”

The tools he needed for the en­ema were in­ad­e­quate, and he “lost con­trol of his bow­els.” There wasn’t enough toi­let pa­per and re­quests for more, and clean box­ers, were “ig­nored.”

“He fi­nally gave up and was left in his own mess” from 5 p.m. that Satur­day un­til Mon­day night.

In be­tween, Sher­man did re­ceive some sup­plies but they were “in­com­plete.” He pointed out the prob­lem but a nurse was un­help­ful, telling a cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer he was “un­co­op­er­a­tive.” Sun­day night, a dif­fer­ent nurse re­fused help.

By then he “felt very sick, con­sti­pated and ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere ab­dom­i­nal cramp­ing.”

Sher­man says he suf­fers from anx­i­ety, ag­gra­vated by lack of ac­cess to his sup­plies. He does not eat when he can’t have a reg­u­lar treat­ment. On Mon­day morn­ing, Sher­man again asked a nurse for help and re­ferred her to his ac­com­mo­da­tion plan. He also asked to be trans­ferred to the med­i­cal unit. Again there was no help, he claims.

By Mon­day night, Sher­man fi­nally had the ear of a su­per­vi­sor who “ad­vised staff” of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der the ac­com­mo­da­tion plan. Sher­man was trans­ferred to the med­i­cal unit at 8:30 p.m. Seventy-six hours af­ter he had soiled him­self, he was able to give him­self the treat­ment — “well beyond” the 24 hours spelled out in his set­tle­ment.

On a stay from March 20 to April 11, Sher­man al­leges “Med­i­cal Unit A” was at ca­pac­ity again and he was placed in a “Spe­cial Needs Ob­ser­va­tion Unit” and told he would “soon be mov­ing” to the med­i­cal unit.

“Later that day, he was asked by a cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer if he would be ‘al­right in seg­re­ga­tion’ for a day or two,” states the ap­pli­ca­tion. Sher­man told him he needed a treat­ment and re­jected the idea of soli­tary.

He was moved to the med­i­cal unit. He faced bar­ri­ers get­ting treat­ment and was “un­able to eat for five days.”

Dur­ing an 11-day stay in Au­gust, Sher­man al­leges an of­fi­cer tried to put a part­ner in his cell at a time when he re­quired an­other treat­ment and would not have pri­vacy. He was de­nied a copy of his plan.

Sher­man’s ap­pli­ca­tion says health sup­ports “are se­ri­ously lim­ited” in On­tario jails and at Toronto South he notes that beds in Med­i­cal Unit A were al­most al­ways full, while a sec­ond unit was “non-op­er­a­tional.”

“What does it say that they ap­pear to have a sur­plus of soli­tary cells and not enough med­i­cal beds?” says Shel­don, Sher­man’s lawyer. She says the case, and past le­gal chal­lenges re­lated to soli­tary, in­quests, rec­om­men­da­tions and prom­ises, high­light the min­istry’s “sys­temic fail­ure to trans­late poli­cies into on-the­ground ac­tion.”

Sher­man is seek­ing as­sur­ances that this will not hap­pen to him again, said Shel­don, or “any­one else.”


Aaron Sher­man al­leges he was placed in a soli­tary unit at Toronto South De­ten­tion Cen­tre be­cause it lacked med­i­cal beds.


Sher­man makes metic­u­lous notes of his ex­pe­ri­ences in jail, in­clud­ing four stays at Toronto South this year — all due, he says, to shoplift­ing in­ci­dents.

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