Posts Tagged ‘thunder bay jail’

“Five years after Ontario vowed to curtail its use of solitary confinement, average inmate stays in segregation cells have grown longer, with one prisoner in Ottawa remaining in isolation for at least 835 days, according to newly released provincial data.

The statistical snapshot shows that solitary confinement, the prison practice of isolating inmates for 22 or more hours a day without meaningful human contact, remains a central component of provincial jail operations. It also raises questions about the commitment of the new government of Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford to pending legislation that would severely limit its use.

The most glaring figure comes from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, where government spreadsheets indicate a Muslim man with mental-health issues, between the ages of 35 and 39, was housed in solitary for at least 835 days. Little more is known about him. United Nations guidelines recommend 15 days as a limit for segregation placements to prevent lasting mental and physical harm. Earlier this year, the previous Liberal government passed legislation that would enshrine those 15-day caps, but it has yet to be proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor.” 

– Patrick White, “Length of solitary stays increasing in Ontario prisons, including 835 days for one inmate.The Globe and Mail, November 5, 2018.

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Port Arthur Jail ‘Monumental Disgrace,’” Toronto
October 14, 1947. Page 08.

The Star
Port Arthur, Oct. 14 – Commenting on the report of the grand jury,
Chief Justice McRuer stated conditions at the jail here were
‘shocking’ and should be rectified by the authorities.

On Aug. 12, Hon. George Dunbar, Ontario minister of municipal
affairs, while making a routine inspection here, said the report of
the spring grand jury was ‘quite true.’ ‘There is considerable
overcrowding and conditions at the jail are not good,’ he said, and
promised a ‘drastic’ shake-up in the administration of the jail.

Despite overcrowding, which could be rectified, Mr. Dunbar said at
the time, the jail and prisoners could have been kept much cleaner if
‘certain people had looked after their jobs.’

The report, as endorsed by the current grand jury, stated in part:
The deplorably overcrowded conditions are a monumental disgrace to
the people of the province of Ontario. Every square inch, and every
part of the building is used for beds. There are beds in the
washroom, beds in the laundry, beds in the hallway.  This revolting
condition cries for immediate, drastic action, right now – tomorrow
may be too late–

stench from so many human beings living in such overcrowded
conditions, together with the regular institutional smell, is
something the members of this grand jury will remember for a long,
long time.

we found 118 men and nine women confined at the jail, almost double
the normal capacity.

questioning the officials we find the food costs per day, per
prisoner, is 31 cents, with food being purchased at retail prices.
With our knowledge of present day food prices, it is doubtful in our
opinion if sufficient nourishment can be provided at the above meat

find that shaving is restricted to once a week when 12 men use the
same razor blade.’

Reporting on conditions at the Ontario Mental hospital, the
presentment of the grand jury emphasized the urgent need for a
building to house women patients.

the present time, women, who are mentally ill, are kept in the
district jail, until such time as they may be sent to eastern
institutions. It is most unfortunate that during their stay in the
district jail they must be placed with women prisoners.’

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“The United States has Guantanamo Bay. Ontario has the Thunder Bay Jail.

Not much difference, really, when it comes to solitary confinement and the application of a torture technique.

An innocent man had been locked up in a tiny cell in that institution for four years. To be clear: he had not had a trial, he had not been convicted of anything, he had not been sentenced for a crime. In the eyes of the law, he is an innocent man. And he had been locked up in solitary confinement for four years.

The light in his cell was on 24 hours a day, a torture technique used to destabilize prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

The young man’s name is Adam Capay. He is a 24-year-old Aboriginal of the Lac Seul First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. In 2012, at age 19, he was serving time in the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre. There was a violent confrontation with another inmate. The man died and Mr. Capay was charged with first degree murder.  Mr. Capay had been held in solitary without a trial for 52 months. This is 100 times longer than the threshold the United Nations considers torture — 15 days. On top of which, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a delay of 30 months or longer between being charged and being tried is a violation of an accused’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mr. Capay’s agony calls to mind the tragic story of Edward Snowshoe, a young Aboriginal inmate in Edmonton who hanged himself in 2010 after 162 days in isolation.”

– Michael Enright, “The system not only failed Adam Capay. It buried him alive,Sunday Edition, CBC Radio, October 30, 2016.

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“There is a young First Nations man in Thunder Bay who the province of Ontario has kept in a hole for 52 months. His name is Adam Capay. When he was 19 he was arrested on minor charges and sent to jail. There he got into a fight and another man died. We don’t know if Capay is guilty—he has been waiting an incredible four years for his trial.

While he has been waiting, he has been kept in solitary confinement, in a Plexiglas box, in an empty cellblock with no windows, and with the lights kept on for 24 hours. Capay has interacted with so few people over the last four years he is losing the ability to speak.

One thousand five hundred and sixty days in solitary confinement. To put this in perspective, consider that the United Nations has declared this form of segregation should never surpass 15 days. They did this because it is considered one of the worst forms of psychological torture.

How bad is it? In the 1950s, a well-regarded psychologist named Harry Harlow decided to find out. He placed rhesus macaque monkeys in solitary confinement for 20 days and recorded the effects. Every monkey emerged badly damaged. Harlow was universally condemned for his cruel and unethical experiment, and his reputation was permanently ruined. And yet the province of Ontario has effectively conducted this experiment on Adam Capay 78 times in a row.

We don’t know how many other cases there are like this. Incredibly, it appears that the politicians and officials responsible don’t either. Renu Mandhane, Ontario’s chief human rights commissioner has been trying to find out. So far, she has identified 1,383 cases of prisoners being held in solitary confinement for more than 15 days. Twelve of these people have been subjected to this for more than a year.

If this happened in a country that is notorious for violating human rights, like Saudi Arabia, we would be outraged. Discovering this is occurring in Canada is so shocking it is difficult to process.

To find out how this is possible, there are a few men who need to answer some questions. Bill Wheeler is the superintendent of the Thunder Bay jail. When his corrections officers put a prisoner in solitary, protocols dictate he must sign off on an extension after five days. How can he justify extending Capay’s torture week after week, for four years?

If a prisoner with mental health issues (like Adam Capay) is kept in solitary for more than 30 days, the provincial minister responsible for correctional services must be informed, in this case that is David Orazietti. But Mandhane told me she believes he only learned about the case when she raised it with him on Oct. 12. Why did his ministry fail to follow procedures? And what has he done since then to fix it?

Regardless, Orazietti has known about Capay for 13 days now, and yet he remains in solitary. When asked how this is possible he shamelessly told the legislature, “That is a decision that is made by the individuals operating our jails. I will not take individual action on a specific circumstance.”

There is a line that ministers are not meant to cross. Governments are elected to tell the bureaucrats what to do, not how to do it. In this case, Orazietti should not dictate how a particular inmate is treated. But he can tell his department: “You have 24 hours to ensure the province of Ontario is no longer violating the UN mandated limit of 15 days. I suggest you start with the most egregious cases first.” Why didn’t he?

I am informed that in the case of Capay, there is a readily available solution. St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre is specifically designed to house and treat prisoners like Capay who suffer from mental illness and may pose a threat to themselves or others. Superintendent Wheeler, and the senior officials who report to him, starting with deputy minister Matthew Torigian, need to explain why they failed to do so.

Another person who needs to answer questions is Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. How is it possible his ministry has allowed people to be held for four years without trial? How many people are in this situation? He too was informed of the Capay case 13 days ago. What has he done since then to address it?

I am sure each of these four men can explain to themselves and us why they are not responsible for the torture that Adam Capay has endured now for 52 months. They can tell us they didn’t know, that it isn’t their responsibility, that they don’t have the resources. Many times when something goes wrong, this is defensible. The system isn’t perfect. Mistakes are made. But when those mistakes are as horrific as the Capay case, these excuses won’t do. These men failed. They need to be held accountable and if found responsible, resign.

Canadian politics is filled with spurious and cynical demands that officials resign. But, as Adam Capay still sits alone in solitary, is there any way this could be a more obvious case of official incompetence and culpability?”


Scott Gilmore, “Fifty-two months of torture and the four men responsible,Maclean’s Magazine.  October 26, 2016.


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“Between October and December of 2015, roughly one in five Ontario inmates spent at least a day in solitary confinement, according to the commission.

Just 4.7 per cent of those placements were carried out at the request of the prisoner.

The disclosure comes as jurisdictions across Canada and around the world are facing heightened public scrutiny of the way they isolate inmates. On Monday, Ontario’s Corrections Minister announced several interim measures and an external review aimed at curbing the number of inmates in solitary.

On average, segregated inmates in Ontario spent 16.2 days in segregation, with 1,383 placements lasting more than 15 days, the international threshold beyond which the United Nations has called for an outright prohibition.

The longest stretch in solitary shown in the data topped out at 939 days.

But on Oct. 7, Ms. Mandhane met with an inmate in Thunder Bay who said he had been housed in a solitary cell for more than 1,500 days. The Chief Commissioner said she was able to confirm the duration with prison officials.

His period in isolation was not captured in any of the information provided to the commission, possibly because his segregation clock was reset after a transfer from Kenora Jail.

The restarting of segregation clocks was found to be a factor in the cases of Ashley Smith and Eddie Snowshoe, two federal inmates whose deaths in solitary confinement cells three years apart galvanized public support for segregation reform across the country. The federal correctional service has since phased out the practice.

Ms. Mandhane’s encounter with the Thunder Bay inmate took place by happenstance. After she announced her intention to tour the facility earlier this month, a concerned correctional officer reached out to alert her to the presence of a young aboriginal man who’d logged more than 1,500 days in solitary.

But as jail officials took her on a tour around the facility’s segregation unit, she saw no such inmate.”

– Patrick White, “High ratio of segregated inmates have mental-health issues, data show,The Globe and Mail. October 18, 2016. 

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