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Correcting Corrections

Law Times reports that Correctional Service Canada has been found to be negligent in the severe beating of an inmate. The ruling in Fontenelle v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 ONSC 6604, comes after the attack on the inmate at Millhaven Institution, a maximum-security facility in Ontario. 

James Fontenelle was seriously beaten after he was placed in a unit with serious offenders and staff failed to follow established security rules.

The ruling has a few important elements for lawyers interested in prison law or who pursue civil litigation against the Crown. Ontario Superior Court Justice David Price’s words about the facility — and the security offered therein — are withering.

“CSC placed Mr. Fontenelle, who was not a violent offender, among inmates who had histories of serious violence, including institutional violence against other inmates. CSC failed to maintain surveillance of the interior of Mr. Fontenelle’s cell, at a time when those other inmates, including the assailants, had access to the cell, contrary to CSC’s own regulations, and when Mr. Fontenelle had no effective means of raising an alarm, because the CSC staff had failed to follow the existing protocols for responding to such alarms. CSC thereby created a risk of the assault on Mr. Fontenelle,” says the ruling. 

It doesn’t stop there. 

Price made the finding after the correctional service brought a summary judgment motion seeking to dismiss the action filed by Fontenelle. 

Instead of dismissing the action, Price ruled in favour of Fontenelle and bifurcated the proceeding to hold a trial at a later date on damages.

“There is no necessity for a trial, as the CSC’s own records establish its liability,” said the ruling. 

This ruling makes the CSC and AG look disorganized. 

Meanwhile, for lawyers interested in what goes on behind prison walls, it’s a glimpse into what can be done on behalf on inmates.


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