Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Move comes after the Ontario Human Rights Commission released numbers showing a high percentage of inmates placed in solitary confinement had mental health issues.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Calling new figures on segregation in Ontario prisons "alarming," the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario has renewed its call for a complete prohibition on the practice of placing inmates alone in cells for upward of 22 hours a day without meaningful human interaction.

The mental-health organization issued the demand on Wednesday after a series of stories in The Globe and Mail highlighted the extent to which Ontario prisons use segregation – also known as solitary confinement – to detain inmates.

The scope of the practice became apparent on Tuesday after the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released numbers it obtained from the province. They show that from October to December of 2015, roughly one in five provincial inmates spent at least a day in solitary confinement.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more: High ratio of segregated inmates have mental-health issues, data show

Read more: The death of Eddie Snowshoe

Of those isolated inmates, the commission found that nearly 40 per cent had been identified as having some form of mental-health issue.

"The figures are absolutely alarming and they are great to have," said Erin Boudreau, manager of policy and community engagement with the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. "They make the case for the complete overuse of segregation in this province."

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the society said it wanted "an end to the use of segregation by investing in greater mental-health supports, and by implementing de-escalation techniques among correctional staff."

The province had been asking for public input on its segregation regimen since March of last year, when Yasir Naqvi, then the minister of community safety and correctional services, launched an internal review of solitary confinement policies.

On Monday, the new minister, David Orazietti, effectively terminated that process by announcing a second review, this one to be conducted by an external adjudicator.

Story continues below advertisement

In addition, Mr. Orazietti announced a series of interim measures designed to placate public criticism of segregation, including the introduction of 15-day limits on disciplinary segregation and a review of data-collection practices.

However, the new 15-day rule would affect a small fraction of prisoners. About 4 per cent of segregated inmates are isolated for disciplinary reasons, according to the OHRC figures. The remaining 95 per cent are placed in solitary for "administrative" reasons, a broad designation intended to protect the safety and security of inmates and staff that carries no time restrictions.

The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario lauded the new government measures, but it said they fall short of what is needed to protect inmates, especially those with mental health issues. "Essentially, this is a very harmful practice," Ms. Boudreau said. "At the end of the day, calling for its end would be ideal. I don't think the province is headed in that direction."

Studies have found that prolonged spells in solitary confinement can lead to a range of health problems, including hallucinations, anxiety, loss of impulse control, severe depression, heart palpitations and reduced brain function. In many cases, according to one study, the damage is irreversible.

The minister's announcement came one day before the rights commission was scheduled to release its statistics.

The commission had already staked out an aggressive stance on the issue, demanding an outright ban on the practice, which, as defined by the United Nations, involves locking an inmate alone in a cell for 22 or more hours a day without meaningful human contact.

Story continues below advertisement

It only hardened that position after receiving the statistics from the ministry.

"The shocking, systemic reliance on the practice as a default management strategy supports the OHRC's recommendation that MCSCS publicly commit to eliminating the use of segregation," the commission states in supplementary government released this week. "So long as segregation remains an option in Ontario's correctional system, the OHRC believes there will not be a sufficient incentive to develop and support alternatives, and segregation will continue to be overused."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies