Ombudsman to head jail segregation review
Howard Sapers will look at solitary confinement, how to improve correctional system
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.