The introduction of legislation that would limit how long prison inmates can remain in solitary confinement is a good start, says Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg.
“I think the end goal should be to abolish segregation — it’s inhumane. But certainly, it’s a good beginning to have limitations on it,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “This is long overdue.”
Friedberg, a partner with Caramanna Friedberg LLP, says increased accountability and a review process to monitor the use of segregation is needed.
“It’s very concerning to me that we don’t already have such time limits in place,” he says. “It’s a hangover from the 19th century.”
If the legislation passes, the law would, for the first time, impose time limits on the use of administrative segregation, reports the Canadian Press.
“Under the current law, the Correctional Service of Canada is required to release prisoners from segregation at the earliest possible time,” says the article.
“The new law would establish a segregation time limit of 21 days initially, and then 15 days once the legislation has been the law of the land for 18 months.”
The new legislation would also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act to make them compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, says the wire service. It would also mean reinstating an oral hearing after a suspension, termination or revocation of parole, it says.
Without any time limits on solitary confinement, says Friedberg, someone could be in segregation much longer than would be tolerable.
He has had clients spend long periods in segregation and they have reported to him that it is devastating psychologically.
“Humans are by nature social beings and to separate somebody like that is crushing to their spirit,” he says.
Friedberg says there are challenging inmates but it seems as if segregation has become an “easy fix” to deal with the problems they cause. Solitary confinement, he says, is used all too often to house sexual offenders and those with mental health issues.
“From a rehabilitative point of view and a societal view, segregation doesn’t help anybody,” he says.