Solitary Confinement

Solitary confinement is the practice of isolating prisoners alone in a small cell for 22 hours or more per day with little meaningful human contact. BC Corrections calls this “separate confinement” or “segregation”, and the Correctional Service of Canada calls it “segregation” or “administrative segregation”. Research shows that prisoners can suffer irreversible and harmful psychological effects from isolation after 15 days.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) prohibit the use of solitary confinement against  prisoners with mental or physical disabilities that would be exacerbated by isolation for any amount of time, and against anyone for more than 15 days, because in these circumstances, solitary confinement constitutes  torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

WCPJS/PLS has released a report on the use of solitary confinement in BC and Canada. Solitary: A Case for Abolition is a detailed prescription for the best practices in abolishing solitary confinement in Canada. This project is funded by the Law Foundation of BC.

Highlights of the report include:

  • research on the use of solitary confinement by BC Corrections and the Correctional Service of Canada (Pacific Region) based on law, policy and client interviews;
  • a review of recommendations made by the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the Correctional Investigator for Canada, medical professional associations and coroners’ inquests, including the Ashley Smith Inquest Jury recommendations;
  • a review of journal articles on the psychological and psychiatric effects of long term solitary confinement;
  • research on law reform in other jurisdictions that has put limits on the use of solitary confinement; and
  • recommendations based on the above research to BC Corrections and the Correctional Service of Canada regarding the use of solitary confinement.

Download the complete report here.