JusticeForSoli Campaign Update - in Ontario Almost All Inmates are Placed in Solitary Confinement - Even Those with Mental Health Disabilities
November 30, 2017
Justice for Soli Campaign Update
In Ontario Almost All Inmates are Placed in Solitary Confinement – Even Those with Mental Health Disabilities
On Saturday the JusticeForSoli campaign launched a video, with the help of McMaster students, outlining the case and calling for accountability, transparency, and justice. The video stresses the role of the justice system, highlighting the fact that there is a clear problem in our current system.
Reform in Canada’s correctional facilities has been brought to the forefront recently through government publications, such as the report issued by an Independent Review of Ontario Corrections Team on October 3rd, as well the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, a mentally ill teenager who killed herself in October 2007 while at the Grand Valley Institution for Women.
The Justice for Soli Campaign hopes to build awareness in order to get the Government of Ontario to end the correctional systems crisis and to implement the Ontario Correction Team’s recommendations, led by Howard Sapers.
According to the report published, Ontario does not currently have a province-wide institutional security risk assessment tool; meaning that almost all inmates are placed in maximum security by default, including those with mental health disabilities, contrary to the Christina Jahn agreement settled by the Province in 2013 .
The problem is that almost all Ontario institutions are maximum security and the province has no minimum-security institutions. Access to a medium-security institution is only available through a specialized treatment facility. Yet, places in these specialized units, including mental health units, special needs units and segregation is non-standardized and not thoroughly regulated. Admittance to the units is based on “personal intuition and unverified information from previous custodial terms, ” according to the Ontario Correction Team. They also noted that this process can then “easily reinforce stereotypes and result in both individualized and systemic discrimination”, highlighting the dangerous, and often fatal, consequences that can arise as a result of current practices in correctional facilities in Ontario.
Michael Rosenberg, a partner at McCarthy Tétrault LLP in Toronto and one of the lawyers who represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (ACLU) when they challenged the Charter regarding the use of solitary confinement in prison, explains that canada is lagging behind in regards to the treatment of prisoners. He stated that “we are failing to meet our international obligations [and that] we are also failing to meet the obligations imposed on us by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that reflect those international values,” adding that Canada should limit duration of solitary confinement and reassess current policies to meet the aforementioned standards.
To reaffirm its’ commitment to justice, the Canadian government must consider true reform.
Soleiman Faqiri was killed under government care on December 15 2016. Soleiman’s stay at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, Ontario was meant to be a temporary measure, yet it ended up being fatal. In October 2017 the Kawartha Lakes Police Service (KLPS) announced that no charges would be laid against any Lindsay CECC officers. Several media reports have questioned about whether the police service was far enough removed from the case to conduct its probe impartially.
For Soleiman’s family, other families of victims killed in prisons, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the legal community, the mental health community, and all Ontarians, the inquest into his death is a litmus test as to whether the Province is seriously committed to transparency and reform.
The Justice for Soli Campaign aims to find transparency and accountability, for the individuals responsible for his death to be charged, and equally important it seeks to be an agent for true reform.