Today, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) filed a motion with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) for an order to hold Ontario accountable for failing to meet its legal obligations to keep prisoners with mental health disabilities out of segregation.
The OHRC’s motion sets out that Ontario has:
- Failed to ensure that people with mental health disabilities are only placed in segregation as a last resort
- Failed to conduct adequate mental health screening and reassessment to properly identify people with mental health disabilities in its care
- Failed to implement a clear definition of segregation based on the internationally-accepted standard of being isolated in a cell for up to 22 hours per day
- Failed to implement a system to accurately track segregation placements
- Failed to comply with requirements to conduct internal segregation reviews to make sure that people with mental health disabilities are only placed in segregation as a last resort
- Failed to develop care plans to provide individualized care to people with mental illness.
The OHRC is asking the HRTO to order a full prohibition on segregation for anyone with a mental health disability, a strict limit on any segregation placement beyond 15 continuous days and 60 total days in a year, and the creation of an independent monitor role to provide oversight of Ontario’s correctional system.
The OHRC’s motion follows the April release of Justice David Cole’s Final Report, that found Ontario has not complied with the 2013 Jahn v MCSCS legal settlement and 2018 OHRC v Ontario HRTO order requiring it to ensure that prisoners with mental health disabilities, particularly women, receive appropriate mental health services, and are not placed in segregation except as a last resort. In the settlement, Ontario expressly acknowledged the harm segregation causes to people with mental health disabilities.
Between July 2018 and June 2019, more than 12,000 people were placed in segregation in Ontario, and 46% of them had mental health alerts on their files.
The OHRC is concerned that nearly seven years have passed since the first Jahn settlement and Ontario is still in breach of its legal obligations, leading to very little change for prisoners with mental health disabilities in Ontario correctional facilities. The OHRC is taking this legal step to make sure that no prisoner is subjected to the unconstitutional harms caused by solitary confinement, that prisoners with mental health disabilities receive the care they require, and that the government is held accountable for meeting its legal obligations to protect people with mental health disabilities in Ontario’s prisons.
Motion re: Ontario’s non-compliance with the Jahn and 2018 HRTO order terms
Final Report of the Independent Reviewer (2019)
Segregation and mental health in Ontario’s prisons: Jahn v. Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Consent Order (2018)