Editorial: Liberals’ ineptitude on jails exposed

Kathleen Wynne
Premier Kathleen Wynne hosted a funding announcement and town hall at Algonquin College April 18, 2017.

Once again, the Liberals have been exposed on the jail file.

Thanks to an investigation by Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé, the results of which were made public this week, we know that provincial jails haven’t been appropriately keeping track of inmates kept in solitary confinement.

Segregation, as it is called, is sometimes used to protect inmates from threats made against them. It can be a valuable tool for guards who have a tough job. It is sometimes used, however, as punishment.

Some inmates have been kept in isolation for longer than 15 days. The United Nations considers that timeframe “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”

The ombudsman’s report showed one inmate at Ottawa’s jail had five different start dates recorded for his time in segregation. “We probably tracked livestock better than we do human beings,” a ministry official told the ombudsman.

This is an embarrassment.

And responsibility lies at the feet of Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government.

Time in jails shouldn’t be a picnic. Most inmates are there because they’ve broken society’s laws. Some are monsters, and our instinct is to lock them away for a very long time. We feel no sympathy for them.

Yet that doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated with a lack of human decency. When they are, it reflects on us — on our society and its values — more poorly than it does them. We don’t want these men and women treated better only for their own dignity. We want them treated better to safeguard our own.

Surely we can find a way to incarcerate dangerous criminals without violating the basic rights of those who end up at Innes Road for whatever reason.

The report offers 32 recommendations on how to improve the segregation system.

The current minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Ottawa-Orléans MPP Marie-France Lalonde, has committed to fulfilling all of the recommendations laid out.

But will it happen?

“You don’t transform a system this large, this dysfunctional, quite frankly, in a short amount of time,” said Dubé.

Perhaps, but this is not a new issue. The Sun’s reporting has unearthed problem after problem in Ontario’s jails. The death of Adam Capay in Thunder Bay exposed the segregation problems once and for all.

These are not new issues. They do not need more time, and excuses, platitudes or even good intentions will no longer suffice.

What will it take to clean up the province’s jails?

Next June, there’s an election.

 

Ottawa Sun by Sun Staff.

April 22nd 2017

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