An aboriginal woman whose plight in solitary confinement in the federal prison system sparked a legal challenge attended a news conference on Wednesday with her lawyer to announce the lawsuit has been settled.
BobbyLee Worm, 26, an aboriginal from Saskatchewan, did not talk about the deal. She referred all questions to her lawyer.
She was put in solitary confinement for more than three-and-a-half years while in federal prison. The lawsuit against the federal government alleged she was treated inhumanely and illegally. Worm had been sentenced to six years on robbery charges.
Worm’s lawyer, Robert James, would not give out the details of the settlement.
But he did say the message has been sent that solitary confiment is no longer a proper form of punishment within the penal system.
“With this, we are hopeful to see some changes in the federal prison system,” James said.
He also noted his client struggles with the long-term effects of solitary confinment.
“She now tries to make a new life for herself,” he said.
The fundamental issue was that sending someone into the hole for a long period of time is old-school and inhumane, he said.
“They should not put someone in solitary confinement for three-and-a-half years,” he said. “It violates a prisoner’s rights and it lends to psychotic and suicidal behaviour.”
James added: “Solitary confinement violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Worm’s lawyer said they view Worm’s isolation as an easy way for prison management to get rid of a difficult prisoner.
Worm was 19 years old when she was sent to a federal prison. During her stay in solitary she was confined 23 hours a day to a cell measuring 10 feet by eight feet.
She had been deemed a high risk, which allowed prison officials to segregate her. She was released from solitary confinement two days after the B.C. Civil Liberties Association launched the lawsuit on her behalf.
“Our position is solitary confinement should be used only in exceptional cases and only for a short period,” said BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine.”It should be used for no longer than 15 days at a time.
“BobbyLee feels this [settlement] makes real headway in addressing the concerns she raised about the abuse she suffered,” added Pastine in a statement.
“This settlement is a step in the right direction toward treating prisoners humanely and giving them a real chance to successfully re-enter society when they’re released.”