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HIV-positive Ottawa man must remain in solitary confinement

Judge says there is 'high risk' Steven Boone would manipulate other inmates into having unprotected sex

Steven Boone has been held in solitary confinement in an Ottawa prison since May 29, 2013. Credit: Xtra file photo

Steven Boone’s application to get out of segregation has been denied.

Since May 29, 2013, Boone has been held in solitary confinement at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC). He was convicted in October 2012 of attempted murder of three men, three counts of aggravated sexual assault and administering a noxious substance (his semen).

During a two-day hearing in December, Boone’s lawyer, Paul Champ, argued that neither the jail nor the Crown provided a lawful reason for his client’s long-term solitary confinement. Champ told Xtra he was hoping to get Boone out of solitary by Christmas, but the court didn’t make a ruling until late in the day Jan 16, and it was not in Boone’s favour.

“Given that I find it would be unsafe for an inmate to be placed with the applicant in the same cell and that it is necessary for the applicant [to] remain alone in a cell at night, the application is dismissed,” Justice Robert J Smith wrote in his ruling.

The ruling referred to Boone’s “abilities to manipulate young men into having unprotected sex” and the fact that he had engaged in unprotected sex while at the jail.

“I find that if the applicant is placed with a cellmate there is a very high risk that the applicant would manipulate the cellmate into having sexual intercourse and a high risk that this cellmate would [contract] HIV putting any such cellmate in a dangerous situation if placed with the applicant,” Smith said in his ruling.

In December, Champ acknowledged that Boone had had unprotected sex while at OCDC but pointed out that his client was open about his HIV status, that he requested and received condoms and lubricant from the jail’s nursing staff, and that it was Boone’s sexual partner who wanted to have unprotected sex.

“This is a disappointing judgment,” Champ said in a statement emailed to Xtra. “The court agreed that OCDC violated the regulations governing solitary confinement, and that Mr Boone’s rights to procedural fairness were violated. Even though his rights were violated, the court ruled he should stay in solitary confinement because he is HIV positive and a risk to other inmates.”

During the December hearing, Champ argued that Boone had never been given a reason for his segregation and if OCDC wanted to censure Boone for having sex in jail, it should have been dealt with as a matter of discipline — which would bring a maximum penalty of 30 days in solitary confinement. Since Boone had then been in solitary for six and a half months, Champ argued, his client’s segregation was unlawful.

The judge’s ruling acknowledged that Boone should have been informed of the reason for his continued segregation and that he should have been allowed to request to be let out of segregation every five days. Still, the judge upheld the segregation on the grounds Boone was a danger to other inmates.

“This was troubling because all of the evidence before the court showed that Steven’s sexual contacts behind bars were completely consensual and he fully disclosed his HIV status,” Champ said. “Further, the court didn’t seem to understand that Steven’s risk of infecting anyone was practically zero because he was taking his medication and his viral load was undetectable.”

In December, Boone testified that solitary confinement had led to anxiety attacks and that he wanted a cellmate with whom he could talk and play board games and cards. Champ strongly rejects the belief that Boone is a danger to his fellow inmates.

“According to the logic of this ruling, any inmate who is HIV-positive and having sex behind bars should be placed in solitary confinement,” Champ said. “There are serious human-rights implications, and I will be reviewing this decision closely and discussing [it] with my client.”

Champ added that since the ruling came late in the day, Boone didn’t yet know of the court’s decision. Boone’s options include appealing or he could consider a transfer to another institution, Champ said.