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Segregation reasonable for HIV-positive convict, court rules

Boone decision based on ‘predatory homosexual’ stereotype, says lawyer

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

Steven Boone’s hopes of getting a cellmate have been quashed.

On July 3, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision denying Boone, who is HIV-positive, the opportunity to transfer out of segregation into a regular cell with a cellmate at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC).

In a controversial HIV-nondisclosure trial, Boone was found guilty in October 2012 of attempting to murder three men. He was also convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and administering a noxious substance (his semen).

“Steven has now been in solitary confinement for over 400 days, despite the numerous reports that prolonged segregation has a devastating psychological impact,” says his lawyer, Paul Champ. “The United Nations has held that prolonged segregation is a form of torture.”

Justice Robert J Smith of the Ontario Superior Court ruled in January that OCDC’s decision to put Boone in segregation was reasonable given his “abilities to manipulate young men into having unprotected sex” and because he had already engaged in unprotected sex while in jail.

Smith found the segregation to be lawful and the alternatives to segregation proposed by OCDC to be reasonable.

According to Champ, the main alternative offered to Boone was to share a small room with unknown inmates during the day, during which time he wouldn’t have access to a telephone and could use the washroom only when a guard was able to escort him. Rather than accept that scenario, Boone asked to be placed in a regular cell with a cellmate, Champ says.

The characterization of Boone as dangerous and wanting a cellmate for sexual purposes is false, Champ says. Boone requested any cellmate, including a heterosexual, for conversation and board games to alleviate the trauma and boredom of being in a cell for 23 out of 24 hours a day, his lawyer says.

“We presented evidence that he had spent several months with cellmates who were heterosexuals without incident,” Champ says. “The prison officials never explained why they felt that even heterosexuals were vulnerable to the alleged manipulative advances of Steven, and we argued that was based on the negative stereotype of the predatory homosexual trying to convert unsuspecting heterosexuals.”

Champ also challenges what he considers the appeal court’s lack of attention to medical evidence.

“The superintendent of OCDC testified that he didn’t understand viral load and what that meant and that it wasn’t really important to his decision in placing Steven in solitary confinement,” he says. “The court of appeal did not address the medical evidence here that Steven’s viral load was undetectable and, with the use of condoms, transmission was practically impossible.”

Champ says the ruling is disturbing and could send the message to prison officials that all HIV-positive inmates suspected of being sexually active should be placed in segregation.