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Segregation in Ontario Correctional Institutions

Archived Backgrounder

Segregation in Ontario Correctional Institutions

On any given day in Ontario, there are approximately 8,000 adult men and women in provincial custody. On average, seven per cent of these inmates are held in segregation for a variety of reasons, including:

  • At their own request
  • For personal protection
  • Due to misconduct
  • To ensure the safety of staff or other inmates
  • On advice of a medical expert.

There are two types of segregation in provincial correctional institutions:

  • Administrative segregation (non-disciplinary; inmates in administrative segregation continue to receive the same privileges as other inmates)
  • Close confinement (disciplinary).

Inmates being held in segregation have the same right to receive humane treatment ‎as all other inmates in the institution, including access to health care, fresh air, legal counsel and clergy/spiritual advisors. They are housed separately from other inmates, are confined to their cells, may have limited interaction with visitors or other inmates and may have supervised or restricted access to privileges and programs.

Inmates, at all times, have the opportunity to make submissions to ministry officials regarding their placement in segregation.

The province is implementing a new internal segregation review committee at each institution that will conduct weekly segregation case reviews of all inmates in segregation. The inter-disciplinary team will include institution management, clinical staff and others as required.

Ontario is also appointing an independent external reviewer to further examine the use of segregation in the province's adult correctional facilities. The analysis will build on the work done to date and examine the future of segregation in Ontario's adult correctional facilities. The reviewer will also provide advice to the province as it works to reduce the number of people held in segregation, the length of time individuals spend in segregation and improve the conditions under which they are held.

As part of its work to transform Ontario's correctional services, the province also engaged in a consultation process with key stakeholders, including a comprehensive and ongoing review of the use of segregation in Ontario's adult correctional facilities. Stakeholders and other experts contribute to an understanding of segregation from various perspectives, which is imperative to a meaningful review of segregation policies and practices.

In-person consultations were held with the following groups:

  • Advisory Council on Adult Correctional Issues
  • African Canadian Legal Clinic
  • Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  • Community Advisory Boards
  • Council of Elizabeth Fry Societies of Ontario
  • Heads of Corrections
  • Human Justice Services Coordinating Committee
  • John Howard Society of Ontario
  • Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario
  • Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Operation Springboard
  • Operational Manager Steering Committee
  • Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Corporate and OPSEU Corrections
  • Registered Nurses Association of Ontario
  • Salvation Army
  • Schizophrenia Society
  • United Nations High Commission for Refugees

Some key themes emerged as a result of these discussions and submissions:

  • Concern about segregation of vulnerable inmate populations (inmates with mental health needs, those specifically protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code)
  • The importance of statistical tracking and suggestions for enhanced measurement
  • The importance of recruitment, screening and providing meaningful training and support for correctional staff, as well as the need to explore continuous improvement of performance management
  • Larger systemic problems, such as overcrowding and heightened tensions in institutions, that contribute to the use of segregation
  • Support for independent and external oversight of segregation placements.

Members of the public were also asked to provide feedback, including those with personal experience in Ontario's adult correctional institutions. While the views of this group varied:

  • More than half recognized some need for segregation
  • Concerns were raised about the current policies and procedures and the rationale currently used when determining whether someone is placed in segregation.

Ontario is implementing its plan to address immediate pressures related to segregation; however, there is more work to be done. Work is ongoing to develop a sustainable, long-term approach to segregation within the province's broader corrections transformation. The input of stakeholders and justice partners will continue to play an important role as the ministry moves forward with its overall transformation of correctional services.

As the work on the review continues, the province will:

  • Hold a symposium to bring together national and international corrections experts to discuss innovative solutions and transformative ideas in the field of corrections
  • Explore how ministries can work together collaboratively to create better outcomes
  • Continue to work with key stakeholders
  • Engage in consultations with First Nations communities and leaders on the use of segregation in Ontario's correctional facilities.

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