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WCC adopts new definition of segregation

Secure living unit dismantled
A segregation cell door at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre during a media tour in 2012. An amended Yukon Corrections Act came into affect on June, which is intended regulate the use of segregation at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

An amended Yukon Corrections Act has come into effect, which will better regulate the use of segregation at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC).

Al Lucier, assistant deputy minister of justice, and corrections director Andrea Monteiro spoke with the News on July 23 to go over what has changed.

Amendments to the act were introduced last October and passed in November. Lucier said the amended act came into effect on June 19.

Monteiro said the amendments tackle the use of segregation and separate confinement, including a new definition of segregation that falls more in line with the United Nations definition of the term.

“Rather than (defining segregation as) a place, a segregation unit, what we did is introduce a definition that outlines segregation as a condition of confinement,” Monteiro said.

Under the new rules for non-disciplinary placement in segregation, an inmate confined to his or her cell for 22 hours or more would be considered segregated. To be placed in such condition will now require additional external oversight and different rules to ensure procedural fairness.

The new legislation introduced an oversight review process.

Segregation can be used for up to 15 days at a time. In a period of 365 days, an inmate can only be in segregation for 60 total days.

Adjudicators from outside the prison will perform reviews. They will review consecutive-day and aggregate-day placements to ensure that the regulations are followed.

Should there be an incident at the WCC, an external hearing adjudicator will look over the situation and possibly could prescribe segregation.

Monteiro explained that the WCC’s secure living unit (SLU) has been dismantled and no longer exists as per the amended legislation. The SLU was the focus of a civil action between the WCC and Darryl Sheepway, who filed a petition over his placement in the unit.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale determined in his September 2019 decision that the WCC did not have the legal authority to create the unit in question.

“Justice Veale’s decision outlined that Yukon Corrections did not have the legal authority to create such a unit unless it was enshrined in the regulations or legislation,” Monteiro said.

With the amendments, she indicated that the WCC is now operating within the legal boundaries of what was determined by the Yukon Supreme Court.

The WCC is now taking an individualized care approach with inmates to meet their specific needs and inmates will have their own individualized care plans created for them.

Lucier said previously the WCC operated with the SLU, meaning there was a place to put inmates. The focus has shifted from a physical location in the prison to the conditions of someone’s confinement.

“You can find somebody who needs an increased amount of attention and perhaps that falls within restrictive confinement but that restrictive confinement doesn’t mean that individual is shipped off to a new unit,” Lucier said.

Monteiro clarified that segregation has not be abolished at WCC. She said it is an important management tool for a small select group of inmates. There are strict rules on when it can be used and for how long.

She added that these new definitions help keep a better number of how many inmates are incarcerated under segregation conditions. She explained that under the previous definitions, an inmate could have been in his or her cell for 22 hours or more but not counted as in segregations if the individual was not in the unit.

Now anyone confined into a cell of 22 hours a day will be considered in segregation.

With these amendments in place, she figures segregation will be used less. She said this practice has been barely used in the last year.

“Having segregations as part of the law in the territory is really just a safeguard for those very unique one off situations that might occur,” Monteiro said.

Contact Gord Fortin at