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Michael Nehass's case raised troubling questions about the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of an inmate who is both Indigenous and mentally ill – issues that have bedevilled correctional systems across the country of late.D-Cst. D. Buckley/The Canadian Press

A mentally ill Indigenous man whose criminal charges were dropped last month after he spent a prolonged period of incarceration in solitary confinement has been jailed again even though he faces no criminal allegations.

On Oct. 19, a justice of the peace in Fort St. John, B.C., issued an arrest warrant for Michael Nehass, a 33-year-old Tahltan man, so that he could be brought before court to face a peace bond application.

He was arrested in Lower Post, B.C., the next day and has been behind bars since.

A peace bond is a court order requiring a person who appears likely to commit a criminal offence to abide by a set of conditions. The application alleges that Mr. Nehass poses an imminent risk of committing a "serious personal injury" based on evidence from an unnamed informant in Fort Nelson, B.C.

The arrest adds a new angle to a case that has already exposed several troubling aspects of the criminal justice system, including the over-representation of Indigenous people and the mentally ill in prisons and the mental-health risks associated with extended periods in solitary confinement.

Toronto-based lawyer Anik Morrow, who represented Mr. Nehass during his sentencing, has been working pro bono to find out more about the peace bond application. She said court officials told her the application may not be heard by a judge for one year because of overstretched justice resources in northern B.C.

In the meantime, the Fort St. John Crown's office has asked for 22 bail conditions to be placed on Mr. Nehass before he is released. They include orders to keep a daily curfew, take all prescribed medications, and maintain regular check-ins with police and a bail supervisor.

Ms. Morrow said the conditions amount to an onerous "sucker-punch" for a free man who is accused of no crime.

"If the Crown is seeking a [peace bond] a year away, and the Crown puts heavy conditions on a mentally ill person when they haven't done anything wrong, then the Crown is setting a trap for the person and making evidence for its own use," she said. "How is that fair or right? Why should the taxpayer foot the bill for that?"

Neither the RCMP nor the Fort St. John Crown's office responded to requests for comment. The local courthouse acknowledged that Mr. Nehass is in custody in the northern B.C. town of about 20,000 people.

The arrest brought an end to an 18-day period of freedom for Mr. Nehass, who spent nearly five years in custody at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, much of it in segregation, fighting five charges related to an alleged 2011 assault.

Mr. Nehass has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and his mental state visibly deteriorated as his incarceration persisted. The proceedings made national headlines in 2014, when a judge apologized after Mr. Nehass was forced to appear before court even though he was naked.

Mr. Nehass was convicted in 2015, but a judge declared a mistrial in February of this year upon finding Mr. Nehass mentally unfit to participate in his own sentencing.

At the time, Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux declared his intention to re-try Mr. Nehass, even though he had by then served more time in jail than his original crimes would have warranted.

But in September, Mr. Marcoux entered a surprise stay application – essentially dropping the case – and voiced no public safety concerns about Mr. Nehass's imminent release.

Mr. Nehass was moved to a psychiatric facility in Kamloops, B.C. Staff there noted a "significant sustained improvement since his admission," according to records obtained by The Globe. He was discharged on Oct. 2.

Since then he has returned home to the cluster of small towns around the B.C.-Yukon border and appeared in Facebook photos smiling and embracing family members.

Ms. Morrow said he had expressed a desire to move in with a girlfriend, get a job and launch a "pro-social" life.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 30 in Fort St. John.

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