Segregation – a federal snapshot

“Please note that the term ‘solitary confinement’ is not applicable within the Canadian penitentiary system,” says Correctional Service of Canada.

This is a lie! This is a lie perpetuated over a long period by civil servants living off the public purse, whose self-serving agenda facilitates a medievalist mind-set intended to thwart reforms to bring our penal systems into line with 20th and 21st century revisionists.

Call it what you will, any time a person is placed in a barren cell with limited access to resources usually available to prison inmates, and held in such limbo for 23 or more hours per day, that is solitary confinement.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society were scheduled to be in court on January 3rd of this year to begin the first ever comprehensive challenge of solitary confinement practices in federal prisons. As their literature put it, “International bodies and experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, have been unwilling to mince words. Solitary by any other name is still torture.”

In the middle of December last year, a judge postponed the start of the case until July 4 due to a “reasonable expectation” that federal legislation will be enacted. BCCLA and John Howard will continue to prepare their case to ensure proposed reforms meet the expected standards.

The West Coast Prison Justice Society, another British Columbia group representing federal prisoners in that province issued a 112-page report last November calling for the total abolishment of solitary confinement across Canada. They argue the point at which the use of segregation is considered to cross the line of torture or cruel treatment is a subjective assessment that cannot be left in the domain of regressive agendas.

Jason Godin, who is the national president of the 7,400-member Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, called that proposal “absurd”, but then, these are the same men and women who have supported a discredited practice. More, the union has never called for a review of segregation its members know has had considerable negative outcomes for hundreds of inmates every year. To boot, it has criticized the reduction in the use of solitary confinement by Correctional Service of Canada, and has called Justin Trudeau’s intended prison reforms unreasonable. In the meantime, CSC’s own data does not reflect a rise in prison violence.

Yes, Correctional Service of Canada has been ‘drawing down’ the use to solitary confinement. Our perspective can be found in the February 19 posting, “Segregation….another stench from under ‘a rock’.” And, as Jason Godin and his union were making their objections last October to possible changes, both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail published editorials calling for action to end the government’s abuse of human rights

……more to come March 12


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