The law courts in Whitehorse. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

WCC calls for petition alleging Charter violations to be dismissed

The Whitehorse Correctional Centre says that Darryl Sheepway’s petition should be largely dismissed

Three high-ranking officials at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) will ask the Yukon Supreme Court to dismiss a petition from a former inmate alleging, among other things, that the jail is unofficially keeping some inmates in segregation-like conditions.

However, they concede that one policy outlining when inmates may be placed in a higher-security unit does not meet the standards set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and as such, may be declared invalid.

WCC assistant deputy superintendent Eric Henriks, superintendent Jayme Curtis and director of corrections Trisha Ratel filed an outline of arguments to the Yukon Supreme Court Feb. 15.

The document is part of a file that originally opened in February 2018, when Darryl Sheepway, who at the time had recently been convicted of second-degree murder for killing Christopher Brisson in 2015, filed a petition seeking judicial review of the decision by WCC officials to keep him in “separate and solitary confinement.”

He’s since been transferred to a federal prison. However, the petition is still active and asks the court to declare a regulation and policy related to separating inmates from general population in violation of the Charter and therefore invalid.

It also asks the court to find that segregation harms inmates both mentally and physically; that prolonged segregation makes inmates more dangerous; that placement in the jail’s secure living unit (SLU) is a form of segregation; and that placement in the SLU may amount to solitary confinement.

In their outline, the WCC officials ask the court to dismiss the majority of the petition, but do concede that policy B 4.6 of the Adult Custody Policy Manual, which deals with when inmates can be placed in the SLU, is in violation of section 7 of the Charter, which guarantees protection of life, liberty and security of the person.

The policy does not provide the procedural fairness — in this case, the ability for inmates to ask for proper reviews on the decision to place them in the SLU — required under the section.

The outline argues that the policy, however, does not otherwise violate the Charter, or even other parts of Section 7. The conditions and circumstances under which Sheepway was kept in the SLU were vastly different than those outlined in a landmark case brought against the Attorney General of Canada by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

The judge in that case found, among other things, that solitary confinement is locking up an inmate for 22 hours or more without meaningful human contact, and that conditions inmates face in federal prisons were solitary confinement.

At the WCC, however, even the most strict lock-up only keeps inmates confined for a maximum of 21 hours a day, the outline argues. The conditions in the SLU are also not comparable to those at federal prisoners, the outline says — inmates are allowed “unlock time” for three to six hours a day, have access to a common area with exercise equipment and unrestricted phone access, can have visitors, and, if they wish, regular access to a pastor, elders, and mental health services.

According to an affidavit from Hendriks, in Sheepway’s case in particular, it was necessary to keep him in the SLU as he had previously worked as a correctional officer at the WCC and had intimate knowledge of the jail’s workings. That knowledge posed both a risk to the security of the jail, the affidavit says, as well as to Sheepway’s safety in the form of other inmates trying to harm him.

As well, the affidavit notes, while Sheepway had unlock time alone at times, and he had regular interactions with correctional officers and was allowed visits with his mother and children outside of regular visiting hours and protocol. Sheepway also had regular meetings with a psychologist and psychiatrist and was offered, among other things, dog therapy and a 12-step program, but declined.

The outline argues that the piece of legislation targeted in Sheepway’s petition — section 21 of the Correction Regulation — does not violate the Charter because it “only prescribes the situations in which an inmate may be placed in separate confinement.” The legislation does not, the outline argues, prescribe the conditions under which inmates may or may not be kept while in separate confinement, which appear to be the main issue raised by the petition.

The authority to dictate the living conditions of inmates in separate confinement is “passed down to WCC decision makers” and is detailed in policy, according to the outline, and therefore, the legislation cannot be found in violation of the Charter because it does not contain “problematic provisions.”

The officials also question Sheepway’s standing to challenge the regulation at all, arguing that he was never kept in separate confinement.

The petition will be heard in court in May.

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon artist’s work featured in national exhibit

Nicole Favron named as Yukon winner for 2020 BMO Art! competition

Higher camping fees, new campground, reconciliation efforts feature in Yukon parks 10-year strategy

Creating a new campground within two hours of Whitehorse, introducing higher camping… Continue reading

UPDATED: Driver in alleged Whitehorse gun-pointing incident arrested

Christopher Dick, 24, charged with obstructing a peace officer, failing to comply with release order

YG and pharmacies preparing for flu vaccine distribution

The Yukon government is preparing for flu season and encouraging people to… Continue reading

Non-resident tests positive for COVID-19

The individual has been hospitalized in Whitehorse

Hot Hounds bikejor race serves as lone summer competition

Held in Mount Lorne, the race was organized by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon

Whitehorse operations building officially open

Staff are taking phased approach to moving in

North of Ordinary Experience Centre shutting down

COVID-19 has caused bookings for the space to become almost non-existent, owner says

Canada Games Centre could get new playground

Council to vote on contract award

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Harescramble brings out motorcycle community

This year’s event included 67 riders

YG seeks members for youth climate change panel

“Yukon youth deserve to have their voices heard”

Yukon NDP hold AGM

This year’s meeting was held virtually

Most Read