Home / Aboriginal woman settles lawsuit over 3½ years solitary confinement

Aboriginal woman settles lawsuit over 3½ years solitary confinement

By CBC.ca
Published on May 21, 2013
Photo Credit: Correctional Service of Canada. BobbyLee Worm was held at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women, a multi-level federal prison in Abbotsford, B.C., designed to hold 86 women.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it has resolved a lawsuit against the government of Canada filed on behalf of a 26-year-old aboriginal woman from Saskatchewan who was held in solitary confinement in a federal prison for more than 3½ years.

More information on the resolution is expected to be released by the BCCLA on Wednesday morning, when the woman and her mother are expected to speak publicly about her ordeal and the effect the incident had on their family.

The BCCLA filed the lawsuit in March 2011, on behalf of BobbyLee Worm, who was 24 years old at the time, saying it was seeking to end the practice of holding women in solitary confinement for months and years at a time in federal prisons.

“Since the start of her incarceration in 2006, Ms. Worm, who suffered extreme physical, emotional and sexual abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence, has been subjected to extensive periods of solitary confinement, much of it while on a program called the management protocol,” said a statement issued by the BCCLA in 2011.

Worm was held at the Fraser Valley Institution, east of Vancouver, where she was serving a six-year sentence for several offences including robbery.

The lawsuit alleged that while in solitary confinement, also known as segregation, Worm spent 23 hours a day confined to her cell, deprived of meaningful human contact, for months at a time.

BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine said at the time that seven women have been on the management protocol since it was first created in 2005, and all the women on the protocol at that time were aboriginal.

“The devastating psychological and physiological effects of solitary confinement, particularly for women who have previously been abused, are well-documented. Human rights bodies have found the practice of prolonged solitary confinement to be either torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The BCCLA said Worm suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of extreme sexual, physical and emotional abuse throughout her childhood and adolescence.