The Other Solitary: Psychiatric Segregation Needs to End, Too

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Solitary Confinement, Administrative Segregation, Mental-Health-Based Confinement, Prison System, Canada


Recently the B.C. Supreme Court declared "administrative segregation" in prisons unconstitutional. It ruled that this form of solitary confinement causes severe psychosocial harm and is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It barred, as discriminatory, application of the regime to Indigenous prisoners and ruled that "any period of administration segregation" of prisoners with mental-health problems is illegal. Any remaining use of segregation must be hedged by strict time limits, access to counsel and independent review.

This is the farthest-reaching incursion on solitary confinement in Canadian history. Yet, as Senator Kim Pate argued in The Globe and Mail, it does not go far enough. She suggested that restrictions such as those in the British Columbia judgment are unlikely to disturb the black hole of correctional discretion around prisoner isolation. Authorities have proved adept at bending restrictions – for instance, manipulating when the clock starts/restarts on hard time limits.