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To Sylvia Jones, minister of correctional services (Ontario)

Hon. Sylvia Jones MPP
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
February 27, 2019

Dear Ms Jones

We heartily endorse the call by Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to end solitary confinement in Ontario.

Since its inception in 2016, our organization has endorsed abolition. We do not see that partial measures will eliminate the horrendous injustices that occur. The over-representation of Indigenous inmates (already over-represented in the prison population), and use of solitary with the mentally ill and young have been known about for decades.

Solitary should not be treated as a politically partisan matter. These cases (Ashley Smith and Adam Capay and too many others) have occurred under both Liberal and P.C. governments.

The previous government saw to the adoption of new legislation, which has the prospect of reducing suicides, attempted suicides, and mental illness (new and exacerbated). However, as the Capay case has shown, provisions for reviewing cases can easily be ignored. In the tragic Ashley Smith case (her original offence: throwing crabapples at a postman), it was a trained psychologist who directed correctional officers not to enter her (solitary) cell and stop her from committing suicide.

Neither health care practitioners nor reviewers of cases have shown the necessary ability to detect which inmates might commit suicide and intervene.

The statistics contained in the Fegeau decision on Capay are disturbing: a substantial number of Ontario cases beyond the 15-day limit that the United Nations terms “torture.” The evidence of long-term harm and increased recidivism from solitary also point to the need for abolition.

Short of immediate abolition, we suggest that significant improvements could be made by:

  • its complete elimination for young people under 25, whose developing brains are more severely impacted by solitary; we note that a number of American jurisdictions have done this;
  • its complete elimination for pregnant women and nursing mothers.
  • immediate imposition of a 10-day limit on solitary, to be amended to 5 days at a fixed time.

Details that have appeared in the Capay material suggest the need for better training of correctional officers. We propose that the province encourage the establishment of college certificate courses for correctional officers–not given by the Ministry–but recognized by the Ministry with a higher rate of pay and rank.

Yours sincerely

Christopher Adamson, PhD, sociologist
Helen Breslauer, PhD, sociologist (retired)
Phyllis Creighton, OOnt, MA, editor
Paul Copeland, CM, LLB, life bencher
Stephanie DiGiuseppe, JD, barrister and solicitor
John Godfrey, CM, PC, Dphil, former MP
Susan James, MA, international development professional
David Kilgour, JD, former prosecutor and Cabinet minister
Robert Lackey, B.A., B.Ed. (retired)
Judith McCormack, LLM, former assistant dean of law
Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, LLD (hon), professor emerita
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, MES, PhD, lecturer
Frans Schryer, PhD, professor emeritus
Bev Swerling, M.A., guidance counsellor
Rebecca Thornhill, PhD, cardiology technician
David Walsh, MBA, real estate developer
Helen Hansen, Tim Ellis, Elina Korchagina

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