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PRISON ADMINISTRATION - Segregation of prisoners

Friday, May 15, 2020 @ 9:12 AM  


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Appeal by an inmate, Wilcox, from an order striking his pleadings. The appellant was an inmate placed directly in solitary confinement upon his incarceration at a remand centre. He remained in solitary confinement for 13 months prior to filing an originating application for habeas corpus. A preliminary review of the pleading identified multiple defects, including the absence of a supporting affidavit. The appellant filed an affidavit detailing the terms of his confinement, its restrictions on his liberty relative to other inmates and the adverse impact upon his mental health. The affidavit further outlined that the appellant was not permitted to attend weekly reviews of his status and was limited to providing written submissions for each 90-day review. The reviewing judge ended the preliminary review and directed that the matter proceed to a formal hearing on whether the application should be struck pursuant to Rule 3.68 of the Alberta Rules of Court as an abusive, vexatious proceeding. Following the hearing, the chambers judge struck the pleading in its entirety on the basis that four of the five defects identified upon preliminary review were not cured. The exception was the defect related to the affidavit. Wilcox appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. Although the appellant’s release from custody rendered his appeal moot, the issues raised regarding the use of solitary confinement were of sufficient importance to proceed. The chambers judge erred in dismissing the habeas corpus application on the basis that the appellant did not identify any deprivation of liberty that was subject to potential review by habeas corpus. The case law relied upon by the chambers judge did not stand for the proposition that habeas corpus was unavailable to a prisoner seeking review of his detention in solitary confinement as an initial condition upon commencement of incarceration. Recent jurisprudence confirmed the view that an inmate’s residual liberty was affected by administrative segregation and was thus capable of challenge by way of habeas corpus, even if initial placement in a particular facility was not. The chambers judge’s ruling to the contrary failed to recognize that solitary confinement involved a deprivation of residual liberty interests that the appellant would have enjoyed had he been placed in the general population of inmates. Additionally, the appellant was entitled to challenge the decision that kept him within solitary confinement as a deprivation of liberty reviewable by way of habeas corpus. Further errors arose from holding that the pleading’s remedial prayer for relief referencing judicial interim release was an impermissible collateral attack that provided an independent basis to strike, that the pleadings were defective and the inclusion of judicial review and Charter relief was incompatible. The decision to strike the pleadings was set aside. The question of remedy was moot.

Wilcox v. Alberta, [2020] A.J. No. 312, Alberta Court of Appeal, B.L. Veldhuis, S.J. Greckol and J. Strekaf JJ.A., March 12, 2020. Digest No. TLD-May112020009