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Who are We

The Campaign for the Abolition of Solitary Confinement

Many experts who know the serious consequences of solitary confinement nonetheless hold out the prospect of its reform: minimal standards, independent review of cases and limits to terms. Jackson devised a detailed Model Segregation Code to ensure oversight and procedural fairness. He also discussed the argument (not advocating it) that prisons themselves should be abolished, rather than solitary confinement within them (Jackson, Prisoners of Isolation).

We can see the need to isolate inmates for short periods of time in some cases, but this means hours (24? 36? 48?), not days or weeks, pending the restoration of charges. Where criminal offences have been committed (or deemed to be), criminal penalties are available for serious culprits, the loss of privileges for less serious. Sensory deprivation should not be a penalty, or, disciplinary segregation should be abolished.

Inmates threatening suicide or self-harming should not be placed in solitary. Inmates needing protection from other inmates need protection, but again sensory deprivation should not be the price of it. As per the recommendations of Sapers, programs should be available to such inmates, and various forms of human contact facilitated, by prison visitors, family members, indigenous elders, chaplains.

The Campaign for the Abolition of Solitary Confinement is a voluntary organization, formed in May 2017, with abolition the goal, for federal, provincial and territorial prisons, adult and juvenile. Our members include academics (especially social scientists and criminologists), retired judges (current judges cannot take a partisan position), practising lawyers and former MPs.

There is wide support in Canada for the abolition of solitary confinement for juveniles, the mentally ill, pregnant women and new mothers. Most organizations concerned with civil liberties and prisoners’ welfare, however, have gone no further than to call for a ban on use for specific categories of people and limits in terms, often with judicial or other independent oversight.

Our focus for action is on the federal government, which, after prevaricating on the need for legislation at all, committed to some reforms, far short of what we recommend and what the Ontario government has agreed to do. As well, the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act should be amended by adding a prohibition of the use of solitary confinement.