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Response to Bill C-83

Written Testimony for
By Leilah Mouna

The conflict with this form of imprisonment lies not in finding faults in its positive attributes or disproving its fundamental purpose of rehabilitation. Rather, importance lies in proving that without doubt, the current and prolonged use of solitary confinement is morally and legally corrupt. In North America, home of liberty and human rights, over 80,000 prisoners are isolated in solitary confinement. We purposely inflict such lengthened isolation, when it has been proven to cause mental illness, physical harm, a decreased ability for inmates to become members of society again, and direct infringement against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UDHR highlights the problem of solitary confinement in Article 5. It states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment”.  In 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture announced that, “to keep an adult in solitary confinement for more than 15 days constitutes torture”. The prolonged use of such isolation for youth and the mentally ill is also being called for prohibition by the UN.

Still, solitary confinement under Bill C-83 can be used for prolonged periods of times. Instead, the prisoner should undergo a set period of solitary confinement but not for weeks on end, the prisoner must be trialed for some sort of improvement between stints in solitary confinement, and there should be an age restriction. Placing juveniles in solitary confinement for extended periods of time limits their ability to read, write, exercise, and receive educational programming, drug treatment or mental health services. Their brains are still developing, which puts them at a much higher risk of psychological harm when exposed to isolation.

Solitary confinement stands in stark contrast to what humanity stands for. Humans are defined as social and sympathetic beings yet we isolate prisoners (within the regular prison system) and take away their ability to develop socially or exercise sympathy in their lives. Ultimately, we are taking away their ability to be human, which in turn, makes US even less human.