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$20 million awarded in Ontario solitary confinement class action

In Reddock v Canada (Attorney General), Justice Perell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that the federal government owes $20 million to thousands of inmates held in administrative solitary confinement for at least 15 consecutive days.

Justice Perell recognized the inmates in the class action suffered “because of a systemic failure”, describing those held in segregation for more than 15 days as “cruelly and unusually treated”. He described the conditions of confinement at length, which (in brief) include up to 22 hours a day isolated in a small cell. He also outlined the effects on those held in segregation, which range from anxiety to psychosis to suicidal thoughts. He found that this form of segregation does not have a rational connection to ensuring the safety of penitentiaries.

This is just one of several law suits across Canada seeking compensation from the federal government for placement in solitary confinement, some of which are under appeal. These include:

Gallone c Procureure générale du Québec (seeking damages for prisoners held in segregation in provincial jails in Quebec)

Gallone v The Attorney General of Canada (seeking damages for prisoners with mental health issues held in administrative segregation in federal prisons in Quebec, and prisoners held in administrative segregation for more than 72 consecutive hours)

Brazeau v Attorney General (Canada) (seeking damages for prisoners with mental health issues held in administrative segregation in federal prisons, etc.) – $20 million awarded by Justice Perell on March 25, 2019

Justice Perell emphasized the need to decide this case promptly to possibly allow the appeals of these cases to be heard together. So the issue is far from settled and it may take several months or years for the actions to work their way through the appeal process.

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