Ask the CCLA: I am incarcerated and believe my rights are being violated

April 3, 2017

I am currently incarcerated and believe that my rights are being violated. What can I do?

CCLA has done a great deal of systemic work in relation to prisons and jails (see below).

Individuals who believe that their rights as prisoners are being violated, or who believe that their loved ones’ rights in prison are being violated, may wish to contact the John Howard Society or the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

According to their website, “The John Howard Society of Canada is an organization of provincial and territorial Societies comprised of and governed by people whose goal is to understand and respond to problems of crime and the criminal justice system. They are fiscally responsible for the continuance of the work and service of the National Office.

In furtherance of its mission, the Society:

  • works with people who have come into conflict with the law,
  • reviews, evaluates and advocates for changes in the criminal justice process, engages in public education on matters relating to criminal law and its application, and
  • promotes crime prevention through community and social development activities.”

You can find your provincial/territorial John Howard Society here.

The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, according to its website, “is an association of self-governing, community-based Elizabeth Fry Societies that work with and for women and girls in the justice system, particularly those who are, or may be, criminalized.”

You can find your provincial/territorial Elizabeth Fry society here.

CCLA’s work in relation to rights abuses in prisons and jails cuts across a number of our key advocacy areas, and is directly related to our overall mandate to protect rights and freedoms in Canada. In the past few years we have undertaken a variety of activities aimed at shining light on—and ensuring accountability and remedies for—rights violations behind bars. For example, we were a party to the Ashley Smith Inquest which examined the use and oversight of solitary confinement, and we continue to conduct research related to segregation. We have also appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada addressing various prison law issues including the writ of habeas corpus, appropriate sentencing credit for pre-trial custody, the interpretation of legal grounds for pre-trial detention and the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences. Our work also extends to the legislative sphere, including submissions regarding proposed federal legislation regarding the detention of individuals who are found to be Not Criminally Responsible.


We hope that you find this information helpful. The information provided is current to January 2017, and consists of general legal information. It is not legal advice. CCLA does not take responsibility for information found on external websites, even where we have provided links to that information. Everyone’s legal situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice. You can find a list of legal clinics and other resources to help you here.