29th May 2024

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Manitoba government hit with proposed class-action lawsuit for use of solitary confinement

2 min read


A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Manitoba government by a previous inmate for the use of solitary confinement, calling the practice “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”


Lawyers at the Toronto law firm Koskie Minsky LLP filed the proposed class action on behalf of James Darren Audy in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench on May 2, 2024.


The suit claims the use of solitary confinement can impact a prisoner’s physical and mental health after only a short time.


“Such damage is often irreversible and will have a substantial and lasting effect on that person’s life,” the suit reads.


The documents say Audy, 36, was in solidarity confinement for around four months while at the Winnipeg Remand Centre in 2023, and he has dealt with the practice on other occasions while at other facilities in the province.


“Solitary Confinement is systemically and grossly used without due process or oversight in every Provincial Custodial Facility. It is routinely used as an inmate management strategy without regard for the severe harm it inflicts on inmates.”, the lawsuit reads.


There have been “widespread recommendations” to eliminate solitary confinement, but the province still uses it, according to court documents.


The lawsuit states that solitary confinement is used for disciplinary and preventive segregation. When used for disciplinary purposes, it notes that it can’t be used for longer than 15 days, but in practice, it is often longer than that.


For preventive segregation, the lawsuit states inmates can be placed in solitary confinement for a “multitude of reasons,” and at times, no reason is given at all.


“There is no limit on the length of time any inmate can be subjected to Preventive Segregation in Manitoba. As a result, inmates are placed into Preventive Segregation for weeks, months, and in some cases, years,” the lawsuit claims.


The lawsuit also states that inmates are kept in their cells—which are claimed to be smaller than a parking spot—for at least 22 hours a day and are only given 30 minutes a day to do activities such as showering, making phone calls, or dealing with other matters.


As for Audy’s experiences, the lawsuit states confinement has caused him emotional and psychological harm and that he deals with PTSD and flashbacks.


The lawsuit has not been certified a class-action, but it would include all current and former inmates who dealt with solitary confinement from May 4, 2022, to the present day. It would also include inmates who have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness and all youth inmates from May 4, 2022, to the present day.


“The Defendant’s conduct deprives Class Members of their rights to life, liberty and security of the person.”


The suit is seeking unspecified damages or compensation and punitive damages.


No statement of defence has been filed yet by the Manitoba government. CTV News Winnipeg has reached out to the government for comment.

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