Federal prisons in British Columbia and Manitoba are forcing some inmates to be double-bunked in segregation cells, a practice that was supposed to have been abolished for everything but extreme emergency situations a decade ago, CBC News has learned.

Documents obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act show at least two prisons have forced segregated inmates to share cells — Stony Mountain in Manitoba and Mission Institution in B.C. In a number of Ontario prisons, the mandatory assessments that are required before any inmate can be double-bunked are not always completed, the documents also show.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator, an ombudsman for federal offenders, says double-bunking in segregation is a violation of government policy, the Charter of Rights and international human rights standards. A 2001 Correctional Service of Canada directive explicitly prohibits the use of segregation cells for double-bunking unless emergency exemptions are warranted.

"Segregation is the most austere form of incarceration we have in Canada. You're locked in a very small cell for 23 out of 24 hours," correctional investigator Howard Sapers said. "These are very confined spaces. These cells are not designed to house more than one inmate. So if you're now going to house two inmates in one of these very small segregation cells, you're really bordering on inhumane custody."