Legal Aid Ontario is planning an organization-wide Prison Law Strategy, which will aim to:
- Provide the best possible legal aid service to persons in custody in federal, provincial, and youth facilities across Ontario
- Fill the most commonly recurring and important gaps in service not already being addressed by Legal Aid Ontario’s criminal law and existing prison law services
Did you know?
- Most of the people behind bars in Ontario’s provincial institutions are legally innocent – awaiting trial or bail.
- Ontario’s correctional facilities are regularly at between 85 and 100 percent capacity, and can be overcrowded, sometimes resulting in putting a second or third inmate on a mattress on the floor in a cell meant for one person.
- The majority of Ontario institutions are between 40 and 100 years old, with:
- facilities over 40 years of age typically considered due for replacement
- facilities more than 60 years old in critical need of replacement due to functional obsolescence, safety and security concerns and increased maintenance and operating costs
- Ontario’s jails offer almost no opportunities to help facilitate family contact and support when research shows that this contact is closely tied to a prisoner’s successful rehabilitation and return to the community.
- In 2016/17, there were over 1,200 people in immigration custody in provincial correctional institutions, where they faced indefinite periods of detention in maximum security settings where there are regular strip searches, cell confinement, and received limited personal visits.
- The use of segregation among inmates with mental health issues has increased over the past 18 months.
- In Federal and Provincial prisons, Indigenous inmates are over-represented and are more likely to be put in isolation, or to spend longer in isolation than non-Indigenous inmates.
- Female offenders, and particularly Indigenous women, are the fastest growing population in Federal prisons.
Some of the ways Legal Aid Ontario is already working to improve and expand legal aid for inmates
- A dedicated toll-free phone line for express service for prisoners in provincial and youth institutions
- Support of test cases that raise prison law issues
- Prison law certificate services
- Duty counsel services at correctional facilities
- Support for the Kingston-area penitentiaries and Warkworth Institution
- Outreach and advocacy, including:
- in July 2017, a written responseto the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ request for consultations on corrections reform
- in September 2017, a joint letter from Legal Aid Ontario and John Howard Society to Ontario to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services on the issue of very high collect call fees for inmates
- discussions with key stakeholders, including:
- Advocacy Centre for the Elderly
- Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
- John Howard Society of Ontario
- Justice For Children and Youth
- Ontario Human Rights Commission
- Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Correctional Reform
- Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada
- Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
- Queen’s Prison Law Clinic
- Tungasuvvingat Inuit
Read more about Legal Aid Ontario’s intersecting strategies:
- Aboriginal Justice Strategy
- Bail Strategy
- Domestic Violence Strategy
- Mental Health Strategy
- Racialized Communities Strategy
- March 2017 Independent Review of Corrections: Segregation in Ontario – interim report
- September 2017 Independent Review of Corrections: Directions for Reform (final report)
- The Code: Investigation into the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ response to allegations of excessive use of force against inmates, June 2013
- CBC, “Human rights commission accuses Ontario of mistreating prisoners with mental health issues”
- Radio-Canada : L’Ontario sommé de cesser d’isoler ses détenus atteints de maladie mentale
- CBC, “Ontario to overhaul corrections system in new legislation coming this fall”
- Radio-Canada : Un système correctionnel en mal de réforme