The young aboriginal inmate at Thunder Bay Jail who languished in an acrylic-glass-encased isolation cell for more than four years without trial has been transferred to more hospitable confines, but a union official at the jail insists the move is temporary.
Facing an opposition grilling over the plight of Adam Capay, Ontario's Corrections Minister attempted to quell the controversy on Wednesday, stating in Question Period that Mr. Capay had been transferred to a new cell with access to TV and other amenities.
But the president of the union local representing correctional workers at Thunder Bay Jail said the inmate has been moved only to make way for a construction crew.
"They can wrap this transfer in some feel-good story all they want," said Mike Lundy, a correctional worker at Thunder Bay Jail, of the minister's statement, "but to say he's been moved out of segregation due to public pressure or something just isn't accurate."
The case follows a series of stories in The Globe and Mail showing how the correctional system is straining to address the growing mental-health needs of its inmate population with outdated, understaffed facilities.
The segregation cells at Thunder Bay Jail have long been slated for a renovation, Mr. Lundy said.
"In a few weeks, when the construction is done, I strongly believe he'll be headed back to segregation," Mr. Lundy said of Mr. Capay.
In recent days, all segregated inmates have been moved to a vacant range with more amenities at the jail, but continue to be held under solitary confinement conditions: locked in their cells for upwards of 23 hours a day with little time left to use the extra amenities.
Over the next few weeks, workers will tear out the acrylic glass and other features that first drew public attention to Mr. Capay's conditions.
"This construction had been set to start around now for some time," said Mr. Lundy. "It's not some miracle that he's been moved out of segregation."
For the time being, however, Correctional Services Minister David Orazietti said Mr. Capay is content with the new arrangement.
"This individual has been moved from their cell," he said during Question Period on Wednesday. "They are no longer in that same cell. They are in a different location, with appropriate lighting and access to day rooms, spending time out of their cell for showers, phone calls and access to TV. It is my understanding, from speaking to officials, that the inmate is satisfied with the conditions they are presently in."
Adam Capay had been held in an acrylic-glass-encased segregation cell with no natural light for upward of 1,500 days.
Mr. Capay's story was first revealed last week when Chief Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane recounted meeting him during a visit to the Thunder Bay Jail in early October. She said he reported having speech and memory problems as a result of his conditions and could no longer discern night and day because of the 24-hour artificial light in his cell.
Media coverage of his plight spawned an online petition, social-media outrage and criticism from lawyers representing Mr. Capay's home community, Lac Seul First Nation, and Aboriginal Legal Services.
Just one day prior to his statement in the legislature, Mr. Orazietti said any decision regarding Mr. Capay's conditions of confinement should be made by jail officials, not politicians. "I will not take individual action on a specific circumstance," he told The Globe.
For privacy and security reasons, ministry officials will not provide specifics about the reasons for Mr. Capay's placement. Inmates are routinely sent to segregation if they are deemed to pose a security risk to themselves, staff or other inmates.
Mr. Capay is being held in pretrial custody for allegedly killing a fellow inmate at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre in 2012, when he was 19 years old. The trial has been delayed several times for a psychiatric assessment and a switch in defence lawyers.
"I can share with you that, as we all know, Mr. Capay is facing some very serious charges," Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi said during Question Period in response to a query about the lengthy delay. "As the Attorney-General, it is my responsibility to ensure that we do not influence the outcome of any prosecution that is ongoing. What I can say is that I have been advised that the Crown has and will continue to work to bring these charges to trial as quickly as possible."
From October to December of 2015, about one in five Ontario inmates spent at least a day in administrative segregation, the internal term for solitary confinement, according to ministry numbers circulated by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
The neo-Gothic Thunder Bay Jail was built in 1926 and the cells still feature old-fashioned metal bars. Acrylic glass was installed to prevent inmates from tossing items at staff. But those same correctional officers became concerned about Mr. Capay's plight last year and alerted Ms. Mandhane earlier this month.