Solitary ConfinementPublished on 6 December 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Art Eggleton
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Minister, I want to follow up on Senator Sinclair’s question about mentally ill inmates in the federal prison system. I specifically want to focus on solitary confinement.
Last week a report came out that suggested that 69 per cent of federal prisoners flagged with mental health issues in maximum security federal prisons have been in long-term solitary confinement within the last year with an average stay of 81 days. The average length for all prisoners in solitary confinement in the previous year was 27 days. A UN committee has said that more than 15 days in solitary confinement is unreasonable and cruel.
What is taking so long to make the changes in solitary confinement to provide support? You said they need support. Well, they do, but you can’t leave them in solitary confinement for these excessive lengths of time and expect that they will be able to survive through that.
What is the government doing to take quick action to deal with this question of solitary confinement?
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: Thank you, senator, for the question. I too have seen those situations and circumstances reflected in the news and in the media, and they are very concerning, without question.
What is our government doing with respect to solitary confinement or administrative segregation? We have received recommendations in that regard from the Ashley Smith case as well as a person suffering from mental illness. Again, I am working with the Minister of Public Safety who has the lead in bringing forward our government’s view, positions and potential changes with respect to administrative segregation.
Not to speak for Minister Goodale, but we’ve had many conversations in and around administrative segregation. He will be bringing things forward in the near future to address those challenging issues you referenced. I say “in the near future” because I want to be respectful of Minister Goodale and the work he’s done.
We’re very aware and have taken very detailed reviews of the reports that have been brought to us, not only here but throughout the world with respect to timelines regarding administrative segregation, what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. I look forward to Minister Goodale making announcements in that regard.
Again, with respect to persons suffering from mental illness, we need to do better. We are committed to doing better. Minister Philpott, Minister Goodale and I look forward to addressing these cases in a concerted way. I would look forward to having further conversations with you in this regard.