A solitary confinement cell is shown in a handout photo from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. British Columbia’s top court is set to hear the federal government’s appeal of a ruling that said indefinite solitary confinement of prisoners is unconstitutional and causes permanent harm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Office of the Correctional Investigator MANDATORY CREDIT

A solitary confinement cell is shown in a handout photo from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. British Columbia’s top court is set to hear the federal government’s appeal of a ruling that said indefinite solitary confinement of prisoners is unconstitutional and causes permanent harm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Office of the Correctional Investigator MANDATORY CREDIT

Solitary confinement gets overhaul at Abbotsford prison

‘It’s more social,’ Matsqui Institution’s citizens advisory committee chair says

Matsqui Institution has recently revamped its segregation area in the wake of a prominent court decision last year, the chair of its citizen advisory committee says.

John Glena says the decision has resulted in “massive changes,” and that there has been an increased focus on counselling for those inmates who end up in segregated cells.

The changes come as a bill that would further restrict the use of solitary confinement makes it way through Parliament.

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The segregation area at the King Road penitentiary has been undergoing changes since the start of the year, Glena says.

“It’s set up differently,” he told The News. “It’s set up for more immediate one-on-one counselling. Chaplaincy is in there.”

Prior to the court decision, Glena said inmates in segregated cells had no access to programs, education or training.

“That’s all different now,” he said. “It’s more social.”

Glena said there is now access to programs, TV and books and a new focus on figuring out what made the inmate act out.

“That’s the big thing – [asking] ‘OK, why are you upset? Why does this happen? What can we do to change this?’ ”

Prisoners can also no longer be held in solitary for more than 14 days, and a warden must inspect the area each day.

Last fall, the federal Liberal government introduced a bill that would replace segregation with special units that would keep inmates separated, but allow them out of their cells for four hours each day and give them more “meaningful human contact.” The bill is currently before the Senate.

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