The Canadian government has taken the first step to eliminating solitary confinement in federal prisons.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale introduced legislation Tuesday that would–among other things–overhaul how inmates are separated from the general prison population.
Under the proposed plan, Structured Intervention Units will still house inmates separately, but those inmates will have access to rehabilitation, mental health care and other programs and inmates who cannot be safely managed in the mainstream population will receive interventions tailored to their needs.
They will also see their time permitted outside their cell doubled from two hours to four hours and will have the opportunity to have two hours a day of “meaningful human contact.”
The SIUs are part of a bill that introduces measures to boost victims’ supports and address the specific of Indigenous offenders.
Canadian law currently allows an inmate to be placed in “administrative segregation”, as solitary is known, for an indefinite period of time for non-disciplinary reasons, such as protecting prisoners from fellow inmates.
That has resulted in some inmates left in solitary for as long as four years.
The United Nations considers solitary over 15 days to be torture.
There will be no hard cap under the proposed legislation.
The Liberal government has faced a series of legal challenges over segregation policies and last year it suggested legislation that would limit to 15 the number of consecutive days a prisoner could be segregated.
That proposal got stalled in House of Commons.
With files from CBC, CTV, Global