The Liberal government tabled legislation to eliminate the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons last October. Bill C-83 passed this spring. (Shutterstock / cunaplus)

Judge orders Ottawa to pay $20 million for solitary confinement misuse

There’s been another court ruling in favour of prisoners placed in solitary confinement in Canadian prisons.

An Ontario judge Thursday ordered the federal government to pay $20 million for placing mentally ill inmates in what is officially termed administrative segregation.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Paul Perell ruled the Correctional Service of Canada violated protections guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to thousands of inmates who filed a class-action law against the agency.

The settlement money is earmarked to improve mental health supports in prisons.

It remains unclear how much each individual plaintiff will receive.

“The Correctional Service operated administrative segregation in a way that unnecessarily caused harm to inmates,” Perell ruled.

An Ontario Superior Court Judge on Thursday ordered the federal government to pay $20 million for placing mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement, ruling the inmates’ Charter Rights had been violated. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

“Class members suffered harm because of a systemic failure.”

Solitary confinement isolates inmates for safety reasons when authorities believe there is no reasonable alternative and prisoners spend up to 22 hours in small cells with no meaningful human contact or programming.

Critics have long argued the it can cause severe psychological harm, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

The practice has been found unconstitutional by courts in Ontario and British Columbia.

Last fall, the governing Liberals introduced a bill aimed at ending solitary confinement in federal prisons.

This spring, the Senate approved some amendments to the bill and Bill C-83, was passed in June.

With files from CBC, CP, CTV, Global

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