Darryl Sheepway has filed a petition in the Yukon Supreme Court alleging he’s been kept in solitary confinement at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) for extended periods since his arrest in August 2016. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Darryl Sheepway files petition alleging solitary confinement at Whitehorse Correctional Centre

Sheepway, found guilty of second-degree murder in January, is alleging the WCC keeps him in solitary

Darryl Sheepway, found guilty of second-degree murder for the 2015 shooting of Christopher Brisson, has filed a petition in the Yukon Supreme Court alleging he’s been kept in solitary confinement at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) for extended periods since his arrest in August 2016.

The petition, filed Feb. 20, lists WCC assistant deputy superintendent Eric Henriks, WCC superintendent Jayme Curtis, and WCC director of corrections Trisha Ratel as respondents. It asks for a judicial review of what it says is their decision to keep Sheepway in “separate and solitary confinement” from when he was placed in the WCC’s custody on Aug. 19, 2016, until present.

“Mr. Sheepway’s continued segregation and solitary confinement for a period in excess of 17 months is a sad illustration of how unconstitutional laws, lack of procedural safeguards and lack of imagination can lead to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment even in the most modern of prisons,” the petition says.

The petition is asking Sheepway be moved to the WCC’s general population or be gradually integrated into it, and for the court to find portions of the Corrections Act, corrections regulations and Yukon Corrections: Adult Custody Policy Manual in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — specifically, the sections guaranteeing the right to “life, liberty and security of the person,” the right to not be subjected to “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” and the right to not be discriminated against based on, among other things, gender and mental health.

According to the petition, Sheepway, who was found guilty of second-degree murder in January 2018 following a judge-only trial, is being held in the WCC’s special living unit and spends between two to five hours outside of his cell.

“When outside of his cell, (Sheepway) has no meaningful contact with other inmates,” the petition says, alleging that from his arrest until March 2017, and again from December 2017 until present Sheepway “has had no contact whatsoever with other inmates.” Between March 2017 and December 2017, he had “interactions” with one other inmate.

“No attempt whatsoever was made to integrate (Sheepway) into the general population of WCC for trial and observation,” the petition claims. “No attempt was made to integrate (Sheepway) into individual activities or programming with the general population for trial and observation.”

A secure living unit placement form signed by an officer in charge June 23, 2017, shows that, from that date forward, Sheepway must also be placed in handcuffs anytime he leaves the segregation and secure living units. The petition says Sheepway suspects the decision was triggered by a session with his psychiatrist during which he spoke about his thoughts about hurting a guard — thoughts he said he had no intention of acting on.

There has been “an astonishing lack of clarity, transparency and procedural fairness surrounding the continued confinement of (Sheepway),” the petition alleges, claiming that Sheepway did not receive any written reasons for his “continued confinement and maximum security classification” between Aug. 20, 2016 until April 2017. Sheepway also made “numerous complaints and special requests to address the issue” that largely went unanswered, the petition says.

In November 2016, Sheepway made a complaint to the Investigations and Standards Office about the WCC’s lack of response, the petition says, with the office deciding in February 2017 that the WCC “had failed to provide written reasons for (Sheepway’s) continued confinement, to his numerous requests and complaints, and had failed to develop an inmate plan.”

The WCC responded by providing Sheepway with a copy of a secure living unit placement form every 15 to 30 days with reasons for his continued confinement, which the petition alleges are “laconic and unclear.”

“(Sheepway) was not provided with reasons that would be sufficient to allow him to make meaningful submissions about why his extended confinement is not necessary,” the petition says, adding that reviews of Sheepway’s confinement status and the reasonings given “(appear) to be limited to the burdensome task of copy-pasting” the same paragraph, with dates changed, to the form every month.

The paragraph states that there are “significant safety and security concerns” to the WCC due to the fact that Sheepway was, at one point, employed as a WCC corrections officer and has “intimate knowledge of the facility.” It also adds that there are “safety and security concerns to your person given your previous employment and the nature of the charges you are facing.”

“The reasons do not even explain why (Sheepway) is being confined,” the petition says.

Sheepway’s mental state has “significantly deteriorated” at the WCC, the petition alleges, a claim that Sheepway also made when he testified during his trial in late 2017.

The only “regular programming” offered to Sheepway during his time in custody has been an “arts supply kit” consisting of “blank paper and pencil crayons,” the petition alleges, “presumably as a form of art therapy, which he unfortunately cannot bring to his cell.” He has also been provided with hot water and an exercise bike but has become too depressed to exercise, it adds, and his only access to fresh air “is a concrete room of approximately 8 square meters with a vent bringing fresh air from outside.”

The petition says that Sheepway’s behaviour at the WCC has been “excellent,” with his only “non-compliant behaviour” being “three incidents of passive resistance” to correctional officers’ orders “in protest to their confiscating his blankets, imposing excessive security protocols and administering punishments not within their authority.”

“Despite its impressive budget, its low inmate population, and its high number of staff, WCC has a history of failing its inmates, most notably by its abusive recourse to segregation as a quick fix to any situation requiring some problem solving and thinking,” the petition says.

In joint response filed March 7, Henriks, Curtis and Ratel opposed the granting relief set out in the petition.

The Yukon government has previously denied that “solitary confinement” is used at the WCC.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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