(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

ACES grows the love of gardening with annual seed exchange

The event will be returning to Harrison Mills Community Hall on March 1

Murder charge formally dropped against woman accused in downtown Chilliwack killing

Stay of proceedings ordered for Victoria Purcell; Kirkland Russell to be sentenced for manslaughter

WATCH: Latest Heritage Minute episode filmed near Hope and features some dark local history

Airing on Feb. 20, the 60-second film tells the story of the Asahi and features the Tashme Museum

How much does your city spend per person on snow removal?

Black Press Media compares 2018 ice and snow removal budgets of various Lower Mainland communities

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

VIDEO: Wheelchairs teach Agassiz students acceptance through sport

Teacher Donna Gallamore brought wheelchairs to the Kent Elementary for learning and fun

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Former NHL star Fleury in Surrey for conference on child abuse

At Surrey City Hall, two-day event hosted by Sophie’s Place Child and Youth Advocacy Centre

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Tonight’s sporting event costs more than the Super Bowl, and Obama is going

Tickets are going for more than $4,000 to watch the Duke - North Carolina basketball game

CRTC report finds ‘misleading, aggressive’ sales tactics used by telecom industry

Report recommends measures to make a fairer situation for consumers

Trudeau takes personal hit amid SNC-Lavalin controversy: poll

Overall, 41 per cent of respondents believed the prime minister had done something wrong in the affair

Most Read