Darryl Sheepway is requesting that the Yukon Supreme Court review his living conditions at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC), claiming they are “unreasonable.”
Legal counsel for the 39-year-old, convicted in January of second-degree murder in the death of Christopher Brisson, 25, filed the petition for judicial review Tuesday.
It alleges Sheepway has been “effectively placed in separate and solitary confinement against his will” since his arrest on Aug. 19, 2015.
While at the WCC, Sheepway has been living in the Secure Living Unit (SLU) which is separate from other living units and has a higher level of observation, security and resistance to damage.
Under Yukon Corrections policy, inmates may be placed in the SLU if there is a “risk or perceived risk to the safety, security and good order of the correctional centre.”
The petition claims the SLU is the “mirror image” of the WCC’s Segregation Unit.
It says it qualifies as solitary confinement under the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, more commonly known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.
Under those rules, solitary confinement is defined as confining prisoners for at least 22 hours a day without meaningful human contact.
The petition states that Sheepway spends two to five hours a day outside of his cell and has no meaningful contact with other inmates.
From March to December 2017, he did interact with one other inmate while outside of his cell, but before and after those dates had “no contact whatsoever” with other inmates.
During his trial late last year, Sheepway testified that his mental health has significantly deteriorated while he has been detained at the WCC due to feelings of isolation and inadequate access to services.
He has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance use disorder.
“I feel like I’ve essentially been put in a box and stored on a shelf for 17 months,” he said.
The petition notes Sheepway’s only access to fresh air is a concrete room of eight square metres with a vent bringing in air from the outside.
And it says he is handcuffed when moving outside of the SLU, calling the requirement “unreasonable” and “humiliating.”
It suggests the “sole basis” for this restraint is his admission to his psychiatrist in May 2017 that he was “so fed up” with being in the SLU he had thoughts of harming correctional officers. He noted he would never act on those thoughts.
The petition also alleges there has been no attempt at the WCC to integrate Sheepway into the general population, activities or programming.
The only programming he has been offered, it says, is the arts supply kit, which includes blank paper and pencil crayons that he is unable to bring into his cell.
He has also been provided an exercise bike but “has become too depressed to exercise.”
Meanwhile, the petition claims that Sheepway’s behaviour has been “excellent,” noting he has never attempted to escape, made threats nor tried to harm himself.
It does acknowledge, however, three incidents of “passive resistance” by Sheepway to orders from correctional officers.
It claims this non-compliance was in protest to their confiscation of his blankets, imposing excessive security protocols and administering punishments not within their authority.
The petition further alleges there has been “an astonishing lack of clarity, transparency and procedural fairness” surrounding Sheepway’s living conditions.
According to Yukon Corrections policy, when an inmate is placed in the SLU, WCC staff must complete a SLU Placement Form outlining the rationale for the placement, access to services and the process for requests to return to a regular unit.
But the petition claims that between Sheepway’s arrest and April 2017, he did not receive any written justification for his segregation and maximum security clarification.
It says he made numerous complaints and special requests to address the issue but many were not responded to.
On Nov. 5, 2017, Sheepway made a request for review to the Investigations and Standards Office (ISO), which provides independent oversight to the Yukon Justice Corrections branch.
On Feb. 28, 2017, the ISO concluded that the WCC had failed to provide written reasons and to develop an inmate plan for Sheepway.
Since then, Sheepway has received a placement form every 15 to 30 days.
The petition claims, however, that the reasons for his placement are “laconic and unclear” and do not cite regulation nor policy.
It also says Sheepway was never provided a hearing, an opportunity to obtain counsel nor given reasons sufficient enough to make meaningful submissions on why his segregation is unnecessary.
The petition quotes from the placement form, which indicates concerns with the serious nature of Sheepway’s charges and his employment at the WCC for six months concluding in October 2012.
“There are significant safety and security concerns to the facility that are unique to your circumstances as you were employed at this facility as a Correctional Officer and have intimate knowledge of this facility,” it states.
Finally, the petition claims Sheepway’s case is just one example of concerns with the use of segregation at the WCC.
“Despite its impressive budget, its low income population, and its high number of staff, WCC has a history of failing its inmates, most notably by its abusive recourse to segregation as a quick fix to any solution requiring some problem solving and thinking,” it states.
“WCC’s policy in the face of security or mental health concerns seems to be to segregate and confine.”
Sheepway’s legal counsel is requesting a number of declarations from the Yukon Supreme Court specific to Sheepway’s case as well as to WCC segregation policy generally.
Those include that Sheepway be moved to the general population or be gradually integrated for trial and observation.
Alternatively, it asks that an independent adjudicator be appointed to conduct a hearing into whether his confinement is necessary.
It is also seeking a declaration that the WCC’s SLU policy and the Corrections Act regulation that allows for extension of short-term separate confinement violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It notes the Charter is the supreme law of Canada and cites the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment; and the right to equal protection of the law.
It also says the policy and regulation are inconsistent with principles of the Yukon Corrections Act.
Alternatively, the petition is requesting that the court find the WCC has no power to confine Sheepway under the Corrections Act regulation when it is properly interpreted.
“Mr. Sheepway’s continued segregation and solitary confinement for a period in excess of 17 months is a sad illustration of how unconstitutional laws, lack of procedural safeguards and lack of imagination can lead to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment even in the most modern of prisons,” it states.
Eric Hendricks, the WCC’s assistant deputy superintendent, Supt. Jayme Curtis and Trisha Ratel, the director of communications, have been listed as respondents to the petition.
They have yet to respond to the claims, which have also not been heard in court.
A representative from the Yukon Justice Department told the Star it could not comment on the case specifically as it’s currently before the courts.
The department did not return a request for comment on WCC’s segregation practices by this afternoon’s press deadline.