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Criminal Law - Extraordinary remedies - Habeas corpus

Thursday, September 08, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  


Application by Keepness and three other inmates for habeas corpus. Keepness, a 31-year-old Aboriginal sentenced to a lengthy prison term, was assigned to solitary confinement at the Edmonton Institution. The three other applicants were also placed in solitary confinement at the Institution. Two of these inmates, Hamm and Tobin, had been diagnosed with psychological issues. The Institution reported that placing all four in solitary confinement was necessary based on information from confidential sources that the four were going to seriously harm or assault correctional officers on June 30, 2016, because they had been denied toilet paper and had been subject to racist remarks. No criminal or institutional charges were laid against any of the inmates. Keepness was originally advised he was being placed in segregation to facilitate an investigation. At his five-day review, he was informed his segregation would continue in the interest of the safety of the Institution. He denied the allegations against him, pointing out that he had never had a problem with a corrections officer in the past. Hamm disputed his participation in the scheme to harm an officer, pointing out that he would not do anything to jeopardize his upcoming mandatory release date. He spent five days under suicide watch. Each of the four had spent more than the maximum allowed stretch of 30 days in solitary confinement by the time their habeas corpus application was heard. One of them, Johnson, was released from solitary confinement prior to the hearing.

HELD: Application allowed. Keepness, Hamm and Tobin were ordered immediately released into the general prison population. Johnson’s application was dismissed as moot. Given the severe consequences of solitary confinement, the Institution failed to meet its burden to prove it provided the inmates with procedural fairness. The fact that none were charged deprived them of procedural safeguards such as a hearing, prior to being placed in solitary confinement. Their five-day reviews were inadequate, as none of the inmates’ concerns were investigated and no information was provided about the reliability of the confidential informants. The Institution failed to explain why segregation was the means chosen to deal with the problem it faced with the inmates, as opposed to alternatives such as removing one or all of the inmates to another range or institution or to investigate the alleged motivation behind the planned attack on the corrections staff. The decision to release Johnson back into the general population was inconsistent with the decision to continue the other inmates’ segregation.