COLUMN: Prison reform is an election issue

Solitary confinement should not be used in lieu of addressing underlying mental health problems.

COLUMN: Prison reform is an election issue

Imagine being in a confined space for months on end, with little contact or communication. Earlier this year, a lawsuit was initiated against the federal government regarding its segregation, or solitary confinement, policies in prisons.

According to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), “solitary confinement… is the practice of confining a prisoner to a cell and depriving him or her of meaningful human contact for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and years at a time.”

The current form of solitary confinement which exists in our prisons is not effective or ethical. In fact, many prisoners facing mental health illnesses are simply placed in solitary confinement, which does not help alleviate their illness.

Solitary confinement should not be used in lieu of addressing underlying health problems.

The BCCLA notes a form of confinement, “administrative segregation,” for instance, lacks adequate accountability, as prisoners do not receive a “hearing before an independent body” and prisoners may be left in solitary for indefinite time periods.

The government should take into consideration the calls for action from numerous individuals and organizations on this issue. Prison reform needs to be on the agenda in this year’s election debate, because this issue is linked to crime, poverty, equality, mental health and community safety.

Greater political discussion on prison reform would help highlight the significance of this issue, bring change to the system, and encourage greater political will to remedy the problems that exist. Greater action needs to be taken.

Howard Sapers, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, has also called for changes to the current system of dealing with prisoners. The Office of the Correctional Investigator notes that solitary confinement is used excessively. Sapers would like to see the government restrict initial administrative segregation to 30 days, implement “judicial oversight,” and stop such segregation from being used on prisoners of a certain age and those who are mentally ill.

In 2012, the UN Committee Against Torture also urged Canada to make changes to its treatment of prisoners, including limitations on time spent in solitary confinement.

We need to have a greater conversation on bringing changes to our prison system. The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment should be ratified by Canada to ensure that human rights are being respected. It would add an additional layer of accountability to the prison system.

Canada should not hesitate to join a treaty that has already been ratified by 79 countries from around the world.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.

 

Surrey North Delta Leader

Just Posted

Hundreds gathered at Surrey’s Holland Park Friday (June 11) in memory of the Muslim family killed in London, Ont. on Sunday (June 6). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Educating public ‘exhausting,’ says White Rock Muslim Association past president

Asad Syed says public needs to be more vocal in their condemnation

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

White Rock artist Rod Kerr’s charmingly simplified graphic style and bold colours will be showcased at The Gallery Central Plaza through July. (Contributed photo)
White Rock artist offers bold originals and ‘Fabulous Fakes’

Rod Kerr’s work showcased at The Gallery, Central Plaza during July

The City of White Rock turns 63 today. (file photo)
City of White Rock 2020 annual report available for review

Report to be discussed at June 28 council meeting

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province's fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Most Read