Ontario is saying the right things when it comes to reforming its corrections system, but a prominent human rights advocate questions whether the province will follow through.
A recent report from Howard Sapers, Ontario’s independent adviser on corrections reform, shows the use of solitary confinement in Ontario’s jails has increased over the last 10 years. It also found that people with mental health concerns, or who were at risk of suicide, spent “approximately 30 per cent more time in segregation as compared to the rest of the segregated population.”
That’s a “deep concern” to Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission. She says the findings contravene a settlement reached between the commission and the province in the 2013 case of Christina Jahn.
The Smith Falls, Ont., woman, who had mental health and addictions, was incarcerated at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre in 2011 and 2012. After spending more than 200 days in segregation, she launched a human rights complaint alleging that she had experienced discrimination because of both her gender and mental illness.
The settlement of the Jahn case included a provision that inmates with mental illness not be placed in segregation unless the ministry can show that “alternatives to segregation have been considered and rejected because they would cause an undue hardship.”
“When you sign a binding, legal settlement with government, you don’t expect to find that four years later no one took that settlement all that seriously,” Mandhane said in an interview with CBC News after the Sapers report was released.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission is now considering legal action to hold the government to the settlement agreement in the Jahn…