Federal Corrections Overuses Segregation to Manage Inmates
OTTAWA, May 28, 2015 /CNW/ - For more than 20 years, the Office of the Correctional Investigator has extensively documented the fact that administrative segregation is significantly overused. Segregation is the most austere and depriving form of incarceration that the state can legally administer in Canada. Today's Statistical Report highlights just how often the practice is used in federal corrections. With an inmate population of just over 14,500 the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) made 8,300 placements in administrative segregation in last fiscal year.
In releasing his report, Mr. Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator of Canada, said "There is no escaping the fact that administrative segregation has become overused as a population management tool to address tensions and conflicts in federal correctional facilities." During the reporting period, 27% of the inmate population experienced at least one placement in administrative segregation. "Segregation is so frequently used that half (48%) of the current inmate population has experienced segregation at least once during their present sentence," Sapers added.
Administrative segregation is commonly used to manage mentally ill offenders, self-injurious offenders and those at risk of suicide. The report found that inmates in administrative segregation are twice more likely to have a history of self-injury and attempted suicide, and 31% more likely to have a mental health issue. 68% of inmates at the Regional Treatment Centres (designated psychiatric hospitals) have a history of administrative segregation. Sapers stated that "this is further evidence that the CSC uses segregation to manage behaviours associated with mental illness."
The Statistical Report shows that over-reliance on segregation is not uniform; certain incarcerated groups are more affected than others, including federally sentenced women with mental health issues, Aboriginal and Black inmates. Aboriginal inmates continue to have the longest average stay in segregation compared to any other group.
The Office continues to advocate for significant, meaningful and lasting reforms to the administrative segregation framework. Sapers called for the Government of Canada to limit the use of administrative segregation, prohibit its use for mentally ill inmates and for younger offenders (up to 21 years of age), impose an initial limit of no more than 30 days, and introduce judicial oversight or independent adjudication for any length of stay in segregation beyond 30 days.
Segregated inmates spend 23 hours a day alone in their cells (furnished with a bed and a toilet – no table or chair). The segregated inmate eats all meals alone in the cell, is permitted to take an hour of outdoor exercise per day (weather permitting and with other compatible inmates if possible), is given the opportunity to shower every second day and has limited access to the phone and programs.
The majority of interactions with correctional staff, nurses and psychologists are conducted through the food slot of the segregation cell door. Sapers observed that "the Canadian experience is such that segregated inmates have almost no human contact or meaningful social interaction."
According to Dr. Sharon Shalev, a leading international authority on solitary confinement, between one-third and 90% of prisoners experience some negative impacts of long-term solitary confinement. The symptoms may include insomnia, confusion, feelings of hopelessness and despair, distorted perceptions and hallucinations.
The Correctional Investigator is mandated by an Act of Parliament to be an independent Ombudsman for federal offenders. This work includes ensuring that systemic areas of concern are identified and addressed. To access the Report Administrative Segregation in Federal Corrections: 10 Year Trends, please visit www.oci-bec.gc.ca.
SOURCE Government of Canada
For further information: Ivan Zinger, J.D., Ph.D., Executive Director and General Counsel, Office of the Correctional Investigator, Tel: (613) 990-2690