Prisons & the law

WE CANNOT SENTENCE A PERSON TO PRISON FOR COMMITTING A CRIME AND THEN TORTURE THEM IN CUSTODY.
WE CANNOT SENTENCE A PERSON TO PRISON FOR COMMITTING A CRIME AND THEN TREAT THEM IN CUSTODY IN A WAY THAT PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY HARMS.
WE CANNOT SENTENCE A PERSON WHO HAS A MENTAL OR PHYSICAL DISABILITY TO PRISON FOR COMMITTING A CRIME AND THEN IGNORE THAT DISABILITY WHILE THEY ARE IN CUSTODY.
WE CANNOT DO THAT IN CANADA.

Repeating again federal Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger’s citation that we send people to prison as punishment, not for punishment.

This applies equally to provincial and federal prison industries.

So why has the Ontario Human Rights Commission gone after the province’s ministry responsible for its jails….for the third time in seven years…..asking the Human Rights Tribunal to hold Ontario accountable for failing to meet its legal obligations?

Ontario agreed to a comprehensive settlement with Christina Jahn in 2013 that included a provision to not place persons with a mental illness in solitary confinement except as a last resort. Ms. Jahn had mental health and addiction disabilities but was held in segregation in Ottawa for more than 200 days. Not only has Ontario been taken to task more than once for not obeying the provisions of this settlement, but under two different governments even more people with noted mental disorders have been placed in solitary. Soleiman Faqiri was one, highlighted again in our September 13 posting. He was killed by jail guards in Lindsay in 2016 after a segregation placement.

This time though, the OHRC is also asking that no provincial inmate without a mental health condition be placed in segregation for more than 15 continuous days and a total of 60 days in a year. This would be in line with the latest case law and international standards.

As counterpoint, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General said the province has met “all 31 deliverables specified in the consent orders.”

Right. Now tell us, who are the compliance supervisors?

)()(

Meanwhile federally, Dr. Anthony Doob, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto Centre for Criminology, chaired the Implementation Advisory Panel established by Ottawa to monitor the ending of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Included among the eight members of the panel was Ed McIsaac, executive director of the federal prison ombudsman’s office from the late 1980s until about 10 years ago.

The panel never received data it needed from Correctional Service of Canada despite repeated requests, and its members were appointed for only one-year terms, which ended this past summer. “We have accomplished nothing,” Dr. Doob said. “How much confidence do we have that the experience of a prisoner has changed? My answer is none, because we don’t have any information.” The professor accused Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and CSC of back-pedaling and delaying promises to provide even basic information.

Minister Bill Blair has committed to revive the panel as its term lapsed before it could accomplish anything. In response, Mr. McIsaac commented, “I don’t see it coming back to life absent of having the information we requested in hand, and I don’t think further promises are going to get us very far.” Professor Doob added, “I guess I’m tired of being jerked around. Nobody’s watching. Nobody’s watching the keepers. The irony of it all is that a well-run organization would have wanted to have the data collection we’re asking for in place on Day 1. It’s not rocket science to say: ‘Start recording it with a paper and a pencil – and here’s how you sharpen a pencil.’”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is making good on Bill C-83.

We wrote Mr. Trudeau:

August 28, 2020

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Ottawa, ON

Dear Prime Minister:

About the time your father was chasing the federal government out of the nation’s bedrooms back in the 60s, I was beginning to delve into our country’s prison industry.

According to Colin Freeze in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, “Ottawa not adhering to law on solitary, watchdog says,” he noted that “Prime Minister Trudeau said to reporters on Wednesday that the Liberal government is living up to its commitment to do away with solitary confinement.”

How would you know?

A little experience with Correctional Service of Canada teaches that the agency can be Trumpian with the truth. What CSC says is so may be smoke and mirrors, and what it lives by as true may not survive beyond the front gates. Assessing C-83’s efficacy must include the perspectives of the men and women who are intended to benefit from its provision, namely the inmates. As one said to me about the difficulties CSC is having with the new handheld technology, “That’s b.s.!”

Prime Minister, keep you smellmeter handy.

Yours truly……

Copies went to Professor Anthony Doob, Minister Bill Blair, and Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly.

Thanks to the panel for being refreshingly frank.

Soleiman Faqiri……say the name!

SOLEIMAN FAQIRI IS TO CANADA AS GEORGE FLOYD IS TO THE UNITED STATES.

So, why isn’t the reaction here like it is there? Soleiman is but one of many seriously harmed or killed by men in uniform in Canada, just a George Floyd is one of many harmed or killed by men in uniform in the U.S. Why the difference in public response? There was no camera recording Soleiman’s murder for one thing. Not only that, the perpetrators purposely blocked witnesses while they assaulted Soleiman in tandem.

There have been seven postings in this space since October of 2017 framing the grievance Soleiman’s friends and family have over his abuse and death at the hands of Ontario public servants. They want justice and are determined to persevere until the responsible jail guards are charged and convicted.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is now also taking Ontario to task for failing to meet its commitment to end putting prisoners with mental health disabilities in segregation. Soleiman’s death is a direct result of the province’s negligence.

Plus, the decision by the Ontario Provincial Police in August of this year not to lay charges in the death of Soleiman Faqiri following a second investigation of this crime has been condemned by 60 groups including legal, mental health advocacy and faith-based organizations across Canada.

This sad obstruction of justice by Ontario prompted another letter to the culpable provincial government minister:-

September 8, 2020

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General,
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Minister Jones:

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is far too polite in the motion it’s filed against Ontario for a continuing “breach of legal obligation(s) to keep prisoners with mental health disabilities out of segregation.”

Soleiman Faqiri is dead because your ministry failed to do what it agreed to do back in 2013 and again in 2018. Simply put, a mentally ill provincial inmate was murdered by gangs of guards acting in tandem for no better reason than to “teach him a lesson.”

Your provincial jail guards “teach lessons” to inmates every day in Ontario. Soleiman just so happened to die during the “instruction.” It’s against policy and procedure, it’s illegal, and it’s just plain wrong. And, it’s happening on your watch, Minister.

Following the OPP decision not to lay charges in what is so obviously a state sanctioned homicide, Yusuf Faqiri, Soleiman’s older brother, told an August 15 rally outside your office that if one wants to commit murder with impunity, then do it in a group.

Your ministry seems content with the status quo. What say you?

A cautionary note to Soleiman’s family. The government will one day come to the table to pay off the family, and one condition of a settlement is likely to be that they take the money, go away, and shut up. Government offices are well stocked with carpets and brooms.

Let’s hope the Faqiri family doesn’t allow that, but even so, Ontario can’t silence us all.