Yukon gov’t dismisses allegation that inmate was put in ‘illegal’ segregation

Government claims there is no “segregation” unit at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

Whitehorse jail

The Whitehorse Correctional Centre in wintertime. Inmate Norman Kendi says he was illegally placed in segregation at the jail after an altercation with a corrections officer. Photo: Sara Connors/APTN.

Yukon government says the allegations contained in a judicial review launched by an Indigenous inmate at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre who claims he was wrongfully placed in segregation are false.

The Jan. 29 document disputes allegations launched by Norman Kendi, 19, that he was illegally placed in segregation after an altercation with a corrections officer.

It argues the jail was authorized to place Kendi in a separate unit. It also contends the jail does not have a separate segregation unit, nor was Kendi ever placed in what is legally defined as segregation.

A Dec. 28, 2023 petition filed on Kendi’s behalf by his lawyer, Vincent Larochelle, claims a corrections officer physically assaulted Kendi and placed him in segregation without the authority to do so after Kendi threw cold coffee at them.

The application also argues Kendi was not granted the opportunity to go before an adjudicator at a disciplinary hearing before being placed in the unit. It describes the jail’s actions as “capricious and vindictive.”

Larochelle told APTN News in a prior interview Kendi has since been moved back into general population.

Non-disciplinary segregation

However, the response makes no mention of Kendi being disciplined for the altercation with the officer, indicating instead that he was placed in non-disciplinary segregation.

It states that under the territory’s Corrections Act, an “authorized person” may place an inmate in non-disciplinary segregation or restrictive confinement if they believe on reasonable grounds that their acts “represent a serious or immediate threat to the personal safety of any person in the correctional centre.”

An authorized person as defined under the act is a “staff member designated by the person in charge or the director of correctional facilities to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions.”

The act states only inmates placed in disciplinary segregation and restrictive confinement are entitled to go before an adjudicator at a disciplinary hearing.

The document indicates that since Kendi was not placed in disciplinary segregation, he was not entitled to a disciplinary hearing before an adjudicator and corrections staff were therefore authorized to place him in a separate unit.

Jail doesn’t have segregation units, government claims

The response also claims that the “[Whitehorse correctional centre] does not have a ‘segregation unit.’”

The document alleges that the H-Unit, where Kendi was placed following the altercation with the officer, is a higher security unit. However, it argues that “an inmate’s placement there is not synonymous with him being in segregation as defined in the Corrections Act.”

The response also disputes that Kendi was placed in what is legally defined as segregation. It states segregation is defined as restricting an inmate’s association with others for 22 hours a day or more.

After being transferred to the arrest processing unit following the altercation at approximately 6:30 p.m., the document says Kendi was then transferred to the H-West Unit around 9 p.m. where “his access to other persons was restricted.”

The following day at 1:50 p.m., Kendi was transferred to the H-East unit where he was permitted to be unlocked with other inmates. On Jan. 3, he was relocated back to the unit before the assault took place.

“During the relevant period, there was no day during which he spent more than 22 hours with his association with other persons significantly restricted,” the response states. “The Applicant was not placed in conditions that amounted to ‘segregation’ as defined in the Corrections Act.”

The response states the government will use CCTV recordings and two affidavits to argues its case.

A hearing date has not yet been set.

Kendi is one of two people charged in the January 2023 death of 35-year-old Aaron Smarch. He’s currently awaiting trial at the jail.

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