Most people have the same attitude when it comes to prisoners being incarcerated: lock em' up and throw away the key. Most people base this opinion on the assumption that everyone in prison is guilty, which means that all prisoners are bad people and deserve to be punished. But the recent case of Ogiamien and Nguyen v. Ontario (Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services)  ONSC 3080 serves as a much needed reminder as to who can actually be incarcerated, and what liberties are violated when they are.
What's common in correctional facilities, and in this case specifically Ontario's Maplehurst Correctional Facility, is the use and practice of what's called a lockdown. A lockdown is exactly how it sounds: inmates are ordered to remain in their cells, sometimes days at a time, and cannot leave them to use the showers or seek medical attention or phone their lawyers or family.
As the Court acknowledges in Ogiamien, sometimes lockdowns or solitary confinement is required for safety or other important reasons. For instance, if a violent incident occurs and a lockdown is needed to ensure the safety of everyone in the facility, then there wouldn't be any violation of rights. However, as the Court heard in Ogiamien, most of the lockdowns endured by the inmates in this case occurred due to staff shortages. Even if one officer was unable or unwilling to attend work, the result would be an indefinite lockdown and the inmates would be confined to their small cells, double bunking with their cell mates. The Court found that in one instance, Mr. Ogiamen was locked down for 74 days out of 214 days, of which 68 were due to staff shortages. During this same period of time Mr. Nguyen was locked down, on a different wing, for 70 days, 66 of which were caused by staff shortages.
Mr. Ogiamien testified that, during a lockdown. prisoners often gang up or use weapons just to use the shower or telephone during a brief and rare 15 minute window of time when they are permitted out of their cells. Mr. Nguyen testified that during a lockdown, sometimes days can go by before they are permitted to shower. Inmates sometimes would pull the water sprinklers in their cells just so they could wash themselves.
The Court in Ogiamien found that for 50% of their incarceration, the applicants' were locked down. In addition, the Court made a very important observation that most people do not consider when they are reluctant to sympathize with prisoners:
"It is not...