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21 Ontario Inmates Have Been Held in Solitary Confinement for More Than a Year

New numbers provided to VICE News also show that nearly 600 inmates are currently held in solitary confinement

Adam Capay. Photo via Allison Jane Capay

There are currently 21 inmates in Ontario who have been held in solitary confinement for more than one year, according to new numbers provided to VICE News from the province's corrections ministry.

Other numbers from the ministry show that nearly 600 inmates out of 7,321 are currently being held in solitary confinement in jails across Ontario. And during the month of September, an average of 276 prison inmates spent 30 days or more in solitary confinement—or what the government officially calls "segregation."


"Please note that this number can change as inmates may leave segregation for other correctional settings or release," ministry spokesperson Yanni Dagonas wrote in an email about the 21 inmates. He did not immediately provide a breakdown of the reasons for their segregation.

The 21 inmates held in solitary appears to be a sharp rise from 2015 data. There were 12 inmates held for more than one year in segregation from October to December of 2015, according to a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. That report also found that 1,383 Ontario inmates spent more than 15 days in solitary confinement during that time period.

Ontario's corrections minister David Orazietti, who oversees the province's 26 jails, has faced immense scrutiny after it was revealed that Adam Capay, a 24-year-old Indigenous man, had been held alone in a plexiglass cell in the Thunder Bay jail for four years awaiting trial. Capay was charged with murder in 2012 in the death of another inmate.

Regardless of his alleged crime, Capay's confinement—like any inmate held in segregation longer than 15 days—is akin to torture, according to the United Nations. Those who have met with Capay during his confinement say his speech is delayed and he has lost some language capacity.

Orazietti recently announced that the number of days an inmate can spend in solitary confinement will be capped at 15 days, and said using segregation as a disciplinary method should be used only "as a last resort."


His department has long rebuffed calls to end the practice entirely, but Dagonas said the ministry has recently deployed a team to "thoroughly examine" each case where an inmate has been in segregation for more than one year. The results of these examinations will be shared with Ontario's watchdog body, the office of the ombudsman.

Last week, Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé repeated calls for the province to eliminate the long-term confinement of inmates altogether.

Dubé wrote in his annual report released Wednesday that the ombudsman received 186 complaints on segregation in prisons over the last year and sent a submission to the provincial corrections ministry earlier this year about two recent cases of inmates being subjected to prolonged solitary confinement.

Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane, who met Capay while he was in solitary in the Thunder Bay jail and told reporters about his situation, told VICE News that the current system "lacks transparency which impedes adequate accountability for long-term segregation cases and associated human rights concerns."

"This is particularly problematic because [the ministry of corrections'] data shows that nearly 40% of prisoners in segregation have a mental health alert on their file."

Most people who end up in segregation are there for administrative or non-disciplinary reasons, such as alleged misconduct or safety concerns. A small percentage are held in segregation as a disciplinary measure.

Capay's next court appearance is set for the end of November. His trial isn't expected to begin until next year.

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