The Yukon Territorial government is promising to review how it treats inmates at the Whitehorse correctional centre after reports about how Michael Nehass was treated.
Nehass, who suffers from schizophrenia, spent an inordinate amount of time in solitary confinement and was once and was once brought into court naked, and in chains.
“I was really shocked in the way they treated him,” said Roger Ellis who is part of the correctional centre Elder’s committee.
Part of Ellis’ job is to visit inmates and hear their complaints.
He said the whole system needs to change.
“A lot of them get roughed up or thrown into segregation you know just for a little minor fight they’re in the hole for a week or more sometimes it’s got to stop,” he said.
Nehass was charged in 2011 with assault with a weapon and forcible confinement.
He was convicted in 2015, but then declared unfit to stand trial in 2017.
The multi-million dollar facility opened its doors four years ago.
His charges were stayed in July.
Anik Morrow is Nehass’ lawyer.
She said when outside of his cell, he was kept in handcuffs, belly chains and shackles.
“There was a lot of taxpayer dollars that went into this case a lot so I think they deserve to know what went wrong,” Morrow said. “They need to know the truth and they need to know that their government is doing something about it.
In 2015, a report from the Auditor General of Canada critisized the Yukon’s correction system stating that it could do a better job with programs geared toward First Nation inmates.
The facility was built under the former Yukon party government in consultation with local First Nations who asked for holistic rehabilitation programs.
Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation said what came out is not what she envisioned.
“What we have is something that is close to a maximum security prison and that is not what we wanted,” she said.
Yukon Justice Minister Tracy-Ann McPhee wasn’t available for comment.
But a spokesperson said the Nehass review will be carried out by an independent, third party.
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