August 25th, 2017

Liberals must release internal review of close confinement

Lack of data still an issue

HALIFAX – NDP Justice spokesperson Claudia Chender is calling on the Liberal government to release details about an internal review of close confinement practices in Nova Scotia’s correctional facilities. The internal review is referenced in documents obtained by the NDP Caucus through a Freedom of Information request.

“It’s clear from these documents that the Liberals only began tracking data about close confinement because of pressure from community organizations and questions in the legislature from the NDP,” said Chender. “Now, buried in documents, we discover that they are conducting an internal review of close confinement policies, which may or may not be complete. The government should at least provide a status update on this review and make the terms of reference and results public.”

The Freedom of Information request made by the NDP asked for all data related to the use of close confinement in provincial jails since January 1, 2017, and all correspondence related to changes in how close confinement is tracked.

The caucus received over 400 pages of information, but the internal review is only mentioned twice. One memo from January 16, 2017, states the review has been completed, while a second memo from March 15, 2017 says the review is still underway.

“In the more than 400 pages of data we received from the government, there is no mention or analysis of mental health issues, the racial make-up of people placed in close confinement, or the number of people who are in jail on remand and put in solitary,” said Chender. “These are some of the key issues addressed by a recent independent review in Ontario. I think Nova Scotians have a right to know whether the Liberal government here is looking into these issues.”

Emails and data obtained through the NDP’s Freedom of Information request raise several serious issues including:

  • On any given day, there can be up to 70 offenders on close confinement at the Central Nova facility.
  • Overcrowding is a reason for the use of close confinement, but the data does not capture when this is the case.
  • The Cape Breton Correctional facility has twice the number of close confinement incidents than the Central Nova facility, despite having a capacity of less than one third the size of Central Nova.
  • Lack of adequate staffing may impact the accuracy of the data currently collected.

The Department of Justice data does not distinguish between various forms of close confinement including solitary and confinement to a standard cell.

The NDP Caucus raised issues with the lack of data collected on the use of close confinement in the Legislature in October 2016, resulting in the Minister of Justice committing to improve data collection on January 1.

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For more information please contact Kyle Buott at (902) 266-6068.