After Lisa Adams, spent 16 days in a 'dry cell' at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia last May she launched a court case challenging the practice. On Thurday, the province's justice minister announced the practice will be banned in provincial jails. (Elizabeth Fry Society/CBC)

Nova Scotia is banning so-called ‘dry cells’ in its provincial prisons

Nova Scotia is eliminating so-called “dry cells” from its provincial prisons–a move prisoners’ rights activists have long advocated.

Provincial Justice Minister Mark Furey made the announcement on Thursday following a review of the practice launched in November.

“As a result of the review and the work we’ve done, Correctional Services here in the province is in the process of updating our policies and we will actually eliminate the use of dry cells in provincial correctional facilities,” Furey said, saying they were no longer needed because of body scanners, something the province began acquring in 2018.

He did not say when the ban would take effect.

The Nova Institution for Women, like other prisons, has long use ‘dry cells,’ where prisoners are kept in a cell with round-the-clock lighting and surveillance and without a flushing toilet or running water. The cells are used for inmates suspected of ingesting or hiding contraband inside their bodies. The practice will not be banned in provincial jails. (CBC News/Patrick Callaghan)

Inmates are placed in dry cells when authorities believe they are concealing contraband–such as drugs–inside their bodies.

The practice permits authorities to keep a prisoner under 24-hour-surveillance–even while using the toilet–with round-the-clock lighting and no flushing toilet or running water in the cell.

The idea is that the prisoner will eventually excrete all the contents of their digestive system, and–lacking a flushing toilet–will not be able to dispose of the waste, preventing prison officials from acquiring the evidence.

The practice gained prominence notice last November in Nova Scotia when a federal inmate, Lisa Adams, spoke out against the practice and launched a court case in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court attempting to have it banned across the country.

Her lawyers argued that a section of the Correctional Service Canada Act allowing segregation and monitoring of federal prisoners for suspected concealment of drugs violated the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Eventually, a doctor’s examination revealed that Adams, who spent 16 days in a dry cell in May, had no foreign objects in her body. 

She spoke with CBC News in November about her experience.

Watch/Lisa Adams interview:

On Thursday, Furey said the review that began after Adams launched her court case had concluded that the use of new body scanning technology has eliminated the need for dry celling.

“These body scanners have been found to significantly reduce the number of incidents of contraband coming into the facility,” Furey said.

The CBC’s Shaina Luck reported Furey calling the scanners “one of the biggest contributing factors” to the decision to ban dry cells.

“We believe within the environment of the facility we can isolate those individuals without utilizing the dry cell approach,” he said.

The dry celling ban applies only to provincial prisons in Nova Scotia.

It remains legal in federal prisons and jails, under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

With files from CBC News (Shaina Luck), The Canadian Press 

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