Rights Groups Call on Government to End Abusive Solitary Confinement in Women’s Prisons

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Vancouver, BC: The BCCLA and other rights groups are calling on the Minister of Public Safety to end the use of the Management Protocol program in women‟s prisons. The BCCLA joined with other concerned groups, including the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the John Howard Society of Canada, Prisoners‟ Legal Services, Women‟s Legal Education and Action Fund, West Coast Women‟s Legal Education and Action Fund, Pivot Legal Society, and the Criminal Lawyers‟ Association, to express its serious concern over the continued use of this controversial program.

The Management Protocol is a program that exists solely in women‟s prisons. A key feature of the Management Protocol is its use of prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement, which places women in isolation for up to 23 hours a day. There is no judicial oversight on its use. Of the women who have been placed on the Management Protocol, all but one have been aboriginal, strongly suggesting that the Protocol is being applied in a discriminatory fashion.

In the wake of the BCCLA‟s lawsuit, filed earlier this month, challenging the Management Protocol and the use of prolonged, indefinite solitary confinement, the Correctional Service of Canada informed media that it would be “moving away” from the use of the Management Protocol. “Unfortunately, the Correctional Service of Canada has been claiming that it is „moving away‟ from the Management Protocol for years,” said Grace Pastine, Litigation Director at the BCCLA. “Meanwhile, women continue to suffer. We need action, not words. The Management Protocol must be abolished.”

In 2009, the Correctional Investigator, the independent ombudsperson for federal offenders, recommended that the Management Protocol be abolished. The correctional service did not follow this recommendation, but instead stated that it would review its strategy “with a view to moving away” from the Management Protocol. In May 2010, the correctional service again claimed that it would “move away” from the Management Protocol. “And yet, in 2011, we have still yet to see any true movement away from the program, or from the use of long-term solitary confinement as an administrative tool,” said Carmen Cheung, Counsel at the BCCLA.

The serious harms resulting from long-term solitary confinement are well-documented. It is almost 50 years since Canada passed a Bill of Rights that precludes cruel and unusual punishment and preserves due process; it is almost 30 years since Canada adopted a Charter of Rights embedding those principles into the constitution and guaranteeing them to all people in Canada.

Read the Letter to the Minister of Public Safety

Carmen Cheung, Counsel at the BCCLA, 604-630-9758 Grace Pastine, BCCLA Litigation Director, 604-630-9751