OTTAWA — The federal government introduced legislation Monday to restrict the use of solitary confinement inside federal prisons and to better protect prisoners with mental illness or at risk of self-harm or suicide.
A solitary confinement cell is shown in a handout photo from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
'An over-utilized tool'In her mandate letter, Trudeau asked Wilson-Raybould to work on "implementation of recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness." Administrative segregation is used when there is no reasonable alternative to maintain the safety and security of the institution, staff and inmates. It differs from disciplinary segregation, which is applied to inmates who are found guilty of a serious offence in custody. "It was an over-utilized tool," said Liberal MP Mark Holland, the parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. "All of us were deeply saddened and heartbroken by some of the cases we heard, be it Ashley Smith or others."
Parole changes, tooThat includes reinstating an oral hearing after a suspension, termination or revocation of parole. The legislation would also allow offenders convicted of an offence before March 28, 2011, and who meet the criteria for accelerated parole, to once again be eligible for an accelerated parole review. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down retroactive changes to parole eligibility that were enacted by the previous Conservative government. The unanimous ruling found that the Abolition of Early Parole Act was in clear breach of the Charter because it imposed new punishment on people who had already been tried and sentenced. Marco Mendicino, Raybould's parliamentary secretary, said the new legislation would also reinstate the right for an offender to get an oral hearing after their parole or statutory release is revoked. Mendicino said the previous Conservative government revoked that right in 2012, leaving the discretion of whether to hold a hearing to a parole board member.