Om­buds­man to head jail seg­re­ga­tion re­view

Howard Sapers will look at soli­tary con­fine­ment, how to im­prove cor­rec­tional sys­tem

Toronto Star - - NEWS - KRISTIN RUSHOWY QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU

An in­de­pen­dent re­view of seg­re­ga­tion in On­tario jails will be headed by Howard Sapers, who has served as Canada’s cor­rec­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tor and in­mate om­buds­man for more than a decade.

The ap­point­ment was an­nounced Tues­day by On­tario Cor­rec­tions Min­is­ter David Ora­zi­etti, who said he’s ex­pect­ing a pre­lim­i­nary re­port 60 days af­ter Sapers of­fi­cially takes the job Jan. 1. A fuller re­port will be re­leased next spring.

Sapers will not only look at soli­tary con­fine­ment, but also how to im­prove the cor­rec­tional sys­tem over­all.

This will not be a “short, su­per­fi­cial type of re­view,” Ora­zi­etti told re­porters at Queen’s Park. “We wanted to en­sure that this re­view was one that was in-depth and an­a­lyzed a broad ar­ray of is­sues.”

Sapers, who is wind­ing down 12 years as cor­rec­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tor of Canada and the om­buds­man for fed­eral of­fend­ers, is tasked with find­ing ways to re­duce the use, du­ra­tion and con­di­tions of soli­tary con­fine­ment, propos­ing other op­tions — es­pe­cially for those with men­tal health is­sues — and boost­ing train­ing for staff, among other con­cerns.

The govern­ment be­gan its own re­view of seg­re­ga­tion months ago, but last month Ora­zi­etti said it soon be­came “ap­par­ent to me and to the govern­ment that in or­der to truly re­form seg­re­ga­tion in On­tario” what’s needed is a “more thor­ough and com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the cor­rec­tional sys­tem.”

At that time, he also told re­porters the max­i­mum num­ber of days in­mates would spend in soli­tary for dis­ci­plinary rea­sons was be­ing cut in half — from 30 to15 con­sec­u­tive days — and that it was to be used only as a “last re­sort.”

Soli­tary con­fine­ment has be­come a hot is­sue for the Lib­er­als be­cause of the plight of Adam Ca­pay, a 23-yearold who was placed in a cell on his own for four years while await­ing trial for mur­der — a win­dow­less cell where lights were on around the clock.

Ca­pay has since been moved out of seg­re­ga­tion, in the same Thun­der Bay jail.

Roughly 7 per cent of On­tario’s 8,000 in­mates are held in seg­re­ga­tion for safety or dis­ci­plinary rea­sons, and some­times over med­i­cal con­cerns.

(Those held for rea­sons other than dis­ci­pline can be kept in soli­tary in­def­i­nitely.)

“I share the govern­ment’s goal to re­duce the use of seg­re­ga­tion, and to im­prove the care and cus­tody of those who must be housed separately from oth­ers while in On­tario’s cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties,” Sapers said, adding it’s a “timely and press­ing is­sue” here in Canada and abroad.

Al­ter­na­tives to seg­re­ga­tion can in­clude a “more ther­a­peu­tic en­vi­ron­ment,” ad­di­tional time spent out­side of the cell and fewer re­stric­tions on an in­mate’s move­ment.

“Im­prov­ing the con­di­tions of con­fine­ment also means im­prov­ing the work­ing con­di­tions for the men and women who serve the pub­lic in On­tario’s jails,” he added.

Sapers will be paid $330,000 a year, for up to three years.

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