(Mitchel Lensink/Unsplash)

(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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hospital outbreaks included in Fraser Health update Feb. 28, 2021. (Black Press file)
Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreaks at Chilliwack General and Surrey Memorial

The medicine units are temporarily closed but ERs remain open, according to Fraser Health update

The annual Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford is moving online for 2021. (File photo)
Make a Difference Sale in Abbotsford goes virtual for 2021

Annual auction raises money for world hunger through Canadian Foodgrains Bank

The Bug Girl, written by seven-year-old Sophia Spencer, is being given to 500 B.C. classrooms as part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month. (Submitted photos)
Reading challenges part of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month

Abbotsford-based BC Agriculture in the Classroom participates in 10th annual event

.
COVID-19 cases increasing again in Fraser Health

Fraser North is seeing the greatest growth, Fraser East also heading up

Two teens were sent to hospital after being stabbed Saturday evening. (Shane MacKichan photo)
Two teens stabbed in Abbotsford

20-year-old man has been detained

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

The humanoid sensing robot has a 3D printed finger cap that measures oxygen levels. (Dr. Woo Soo Kim)
Medical care robots being made with 3D origami in B.C. lab

Would you let a robot take your temperature?

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent must come first and last for B.C. industrial projects

UN declaration seen as end to a history of horror stories

FILE  - In this Friday, Jan 1, 2021 file photo, a lorry driver's documents are scanned on a phone as he passes a checkpoint for the train through the Eurotunnel link with Europe in Folkestone, England. One month after Britain made a New Year split from the European Union's economic embrace, businesses that once traded freely are getting used to frustrating checks, delays and red tape. Meat exporters say shipments have rotted in trucks awaiting European health checks. Scottish fishermen have protested at Parliament over the catch they can no longer sell to the continent because of byzantine new paperwork. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)
FINLAYSON: Government should focus on strengthening B.C.’s leading export industries

To revive the economy, this piece in the strategy is integral, writes Jock Finlayson

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read