Amendments to the territorial Corrections Act that will see changes to how the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) handles the segregation of inmates have now passed.
Bill No. 6, which contained amendments including introducing a definition of segregation and limiting its use, was given assent in the Yukon legislative assembly on Nov. 27, the last day of the fall sitting.
Its assent means that the Yukon has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally adopt the portion of the United Nation’s Nelson Mandela Rules regarding solitary confinement.
The rules, which are seen as a golden standard for the minimum treatment of prisoners, defines segregation, also known as solitary confinement, as an inmate having no meaningful social interactions for 22 hours or more.
The WCC will be adopting that definition as well as association restrictions — inmates are not to be kept in segregation for longer than 15 days consecutively, or for more than 60 days total in a year.
The jail, despite having a segregation unit, previously did not have a definition of “segregation” laid out in any legislation.
The amendments will also see the introduction of independent adjudicators, who will be able to review an inmate’s placement in segregation or “restrictive confinement,” defined as 18 to 22 hours without meaningful contact.
The Yukon government’s director of corrections, Andrea Monteiro, said in an interview Nov. 29 that aligning the Yukon’s approach to segregation with the Mandela Rules was a conscious decision.
The WCC is now consulting with WCC staff, First Nations, the Yukon Human Rights Commission and other Yukon government departments, among other groups, to get their feedback on how they want to see the amendments implemented via the creation of regulations and policies, Monteiro said.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing this right, and that we’re always doing it with the best interests of the inmates and staff in mind,” she said.
The WCC is also “striving” to have the necessary changes in place in time for a deadline set out by the Yukon Supreme Court following a petition from former inmate Darryl Sheepway, Monteiro said, although that’s dependent on how long the consultations take.
Sheepway was protesting his placement in the jail’s secure living unit (SLU). Justice Ron Veale found in September that the WCC did not have the legal authority to create the SLU, which he ruled was separate confinement by a different name. He also found that the WCC’s policies and procedures violated sections of the Corrections Act and Corrections Regulation and gave the jail nine months to rectify the situation.
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