Move to ban solitary confinement for federal prisoners

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Ottawa is moving to ban the practice of isolating prisoners who pose risks to security or themselves by introducing legislation. This will eliminate the practice of separating inmates from others in isolated cells for either administrative or disciplinary reasons.

Inmates who do pose risks, will instead be moved to new “structured intervention units” where they can be removed from the general inmate population while maintaining their access to rehabilitative programming, interventions and mental health care.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the changes are a direct result of recommendations from a coroner’s inquest into the 2007 death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith from Moncton, N.B., who choked to death from self-strangulation in a segregation cell in Kitchener.

Smith spent more than 1,000 days in segregation in various corrections’ facilities before her death.

An Ontario coroner’s inquest in 2013 ruled her death a homicide, and made 104 recommendations, including the banning of indefinite solitary confinement.

Currently, inmates in segregation are restricted to two hours a day outside their cells and do not have access to meaningful interactions with others nor do they benefit from programming or mental health supports.

Under Bill C-83 prisoners transferred to structured intervention units will be offered the opportunity to spend four hours a day outside their cell and a guaranteed a minimum of two hours to interact with others.

The Correctional Service of Canada will also have to make sure that considerations unique to Indigenous offenders are factored into all correctional decision-making. -CINEWS

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