Detention conditions: abusive use of solitary confinement | Protecteur du Citoyen
September 26, 2019

Detention conditions: abusive use of solitary confinement

Québec City, September 26, 2019 – In her 2018-2019 Annual Report tabled today, Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret is critical that correctional facilities use solitary confinement of detainees too often, for long periods and without specific guidelines or instructions.

"Solitary confinement consists of keeping detainees in their cell for 22 hours a day or more. Our investigations show that correctional facilities neglect to periodically reassess the need for such a measure. They therefore constrain the detainee in question using solitary confinement that persists unjustly," the Ombudsperson pointed out.

Pending a new provincial instruction on the subject, the Québec Ombudsman recommends that solitary confinement be limited to a maximum of 15 days, as specified in international standards.

Among the other findings:

  • Handcuffs and chains: Rules about the use of physical constraints—handcuffs and chains—in correctional environments go back more than 20 years. The rules must be updated for better supervision and structuring of these practices in a way that respects detainees’ rights. 
  • Healthcare: Even though in most correctional facilities, responsibility for healthcare has been transferred to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, it turns out that for lack of clear instructions, the various staff involved do not always have a firm grasp of their respective roles and functions. This year, nearly one out of every five substantiated complaints from detainees had to do with healthcare.
  • Intermittent sentences: The increase in intermittent sentences leads to overcrowding in correctional facilities, use of inadequate spaces and more transfers and searches. 
  • Dilapidated premises: In carrying out visits, the Québec Ombudsman witnessed the dilapidation of the Leclerc de Laval and Baie-Comeau correctional facilities. 

In 2018-2019, the Québec Ombudsman intervened concerning the Commission québécoise des libérations conditionnelles, the Ministère de la Sécurité publique and the 18 correctional facilities within the Department’s purview. The percentage of substantiated complaints was 41.1% and most of them concerned lengthy delays and failure to respect detainees’ rights.

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