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To Ralph Goodale on Bill C-83

Hon Ralph Goodale, MP
Minister of Public Safety
January 29, 2019
cc: all federal MPs

Dear Mr Goodale

We appreciated meeting with Arif Virani, MP, Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, and understand that he has conveyed our views to you. We urge you to redraft Bill C-83. We do not believe that it will stand the test in court, and have every reason to believe that civil liberties organizations will take you to court on it.

Yes, four hours out of cell sounds a lot better than one or two, and should reduce the number of suicides, attempts, mental deterioration and self harm that typically result from solitary confinement. However, there is no evidence that four hours is a safe limit. Nor can we expect that inmates will get it: lockdowns are frequent and result in inmates not leaving their cells at all, even for an hour. We also realize that your department does not track this.

The whole “structured intervention unit” concept is a guess. Who has tried it? Your bill would permit any existing prison or part of a prison to be designated a “structured intervention unit,” so how will it be any improvement, for mental health and rehabilitation purposes?

We strongly recommend that you, instead, work on measures known to help: reduce the numbers sent to solitary (you have done this before–try more).

  • Make a firm exception for solitary for those under 25 years of age. It is known that the brains of persons under 25 are still developing, so that young inmates are liable to long-term damage from solitary.
  • Amend the classification system–no legislation required. Get rid of the “food slot” for communications. Such may be needed for extreme cases, but most inmates in solitary are not there because they are a danger to correctional officers, but because they fear harm to themselves, or have caused some kind of difficulty short of violence. Currently, to open the door of solitary cell requires the presence of 3 officers, 2 at the door, and one at a short distance away. Hardly necessary for most solitary inmates. Classify! To move an inmate in solitary requires the use of shackles–again, hardly necessary for someone who is no threat to others but fears for his own safety. Refine your regulations!
  • Better training for correctional officers. We recommend that CSC facilitate the creation of a certificate programme, to be given at a regular college, not connected with the department. However, this will require the department recognizing and rewarding the earning of such a certificate. Correctional officers are being called on to do more by way of rehabilitation–they need more training to do this. Current practice is rudimentary. Training is needed.

Yours sincerely

Michael Adorjan, PhD, associate professor, University of Calgary
Harry Arthurs, OC, OONt, dean and president emeritus, York University
Augustine Brannigan, professor, University of Calgary
Michael J. Bryant, LLM, executive director, CCLA
Ann Cameron, PhD, professor emerita of developmental psychology
Maxwell A. Cameron, PhD, professor of political science, UBC
Robert Clark, B,A., B.Ed., former deputy warden
Paul Copeland, CM, LLB, life bencher
Canon Phyllis Creighton, OOnt, MA, editor
Stephanie DiGiuseppe, barrister and solititor
Margaret Ferguson, B.Ed.
Catherine Fogarty, president, executive producer, Big Coat Media
Owen Gallupe, PhD, assistant professor, criminology
Hon John Godfrey, CM, former MP and Cabinet minister
Hon Keith Hoilett
David Kilgour, JD, former prosecutor and Cabinet minister
Suzette Mafuna, B.A. (hon.)
Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, LLD (hon), professor emerita
Philip Rosen, BA, BCL, retired legal policy analyst
Susan Reid, PhD, professor of criminology, St Thomas’ University
Robert A. Stebbins, PhD, FRSC, professor emeritus
Bev Swerling, MEd, retired guidance counsellor, Toronto
Ian Wadell, QC, former MP
David Walsh, MBA, real estate developer
Andrew Woolford, professor, Dept. of Sociology and Criminology
Lois Wilson, CC, retired senator, former moderator, United Church of Canada