(Mitchel Lensink/Unsplash)

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

The B.C. Supreme Court’s decision to end the practice of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons is an opening to push for greater supports for federal inmates, according to the West Coast Prison Justice Society.

Jennifer Metcalfe, executive director of the Prisoner Legal Services branch, said that Wednesday’s decision paved the way to address psychological ramifications of segregating prisoners.

“This case is really exciting because the remedies were so strong,” said Metcalfe.

“It’s really going to change the way prisons are administered and I think it will have really far-reaching impacts.”

The nine-week-long trial between the BC Civil Liberties Association, the John Howard Society of Canada and the Attorney General of Canada ended with Justice Peter Leask declaring the practice of isolating prisoners for undefined lengths of time unconstitutional.

The federal government, which has been given 12 months to change its practices, has not ruled out an appeal.

In a statement, public safety minister Ralph Goodale blamed the previous federal Conservative government’s “overuse of administrative segregation” for both the B.C. case and a similar lawsuit in Ontario.

Goodale said that the Liberal government has been working on reforms to “remedy the mistaken views and directions of the Harper era” since early 2016 but that the work will take “time and effort.”

Metcalfe said the decision made in Wednesday’s ruling was much stronger than the one in the March 2017 Canadian Civil Liberties Association case.

“In the Canadian Civil Liberties case, they found that health monitoring would deal with a lot of the issues,” said Metcalfe.

“This one rejected that health monitoring is adequate to address the psychological and health impact on prisoners in segregation.”

The only remedy the judge in the Canadian Civil Liberties case case imposed, Metcalfe said, was that someone aside from the prison warden review segregation placements.

The B.C Supreme Court ruling that solitary confinement is a charter violation opens up more support for inmates’ mental health, Metcalfe said.

“The laws authorized prolonged, indefinite administrative segregation for anyone… that lacked meaningful human contact,” said Metcalfe.

“We’ve had clients who have been in for over a year. They might have a day here and there where they’re out, but the vast majority of their time over a period of years was in segregation.”

Metcalfe said that as a result, those clients developed post-traumatic stress disorder and began to self-harm – far from the rehabilitation that prisons are supposed to provide.

“[The decision] found that the laws violated the charted because they allowed prisoners with mental-health issues to be held in segregation and they discriminate against Indigenous prisoners,” said Metcalfe.

“A lot of the reasons why people end up in segregation should be addressed through access to therapeutic services, instead of just locking people up behind closed doors and throwing away the key.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Sooke Potholes viewing area likely to remain closed

Report says that more rockslides likely in the area

Residents push back on downtown Victoria tree removal

The birch tree at the Wharf-Government intersection will be removed to make way for bike lanes

Toronto Arrows players take aim at youth rugby clinic

Juan de Fuca team offers get acquainted clinics

Husband of slain RCMP officer ‘disgusted and disheartened’ by parole board

Killer of Const. Sarah Beckett allowed limited day parole for alcohol treatment

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Suspect allegedly armed with handgun robs Island gas station

Incident occurred Sunday night in Nanaimo

MARS seeing influx of sick, injured eagles from north part of Vancouver Island

Factors for increase in eagle cases can be anything from lead poisoning to vehicle strikes

Kamala Harris opens U.S. presidential bid in challenge to Trump

The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign

Most Read