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B.C. Greens reintroduce bill to end practice of solitary confinement

April 11, 2024
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For immediate release

April 11, 2024

VICTORIA, B.C. – Today, the B.C. Greens reintroduced legislation to ban the use of prolonged solitary confinement in provincial correctional facilities for both adults and youth.

“Solitary confinement is a harmful and degrading tactic that inflicts psychological damage rather than aiding in the rehabilitation of inmates. It has a particularly severe impact on Indigenous people and is frequently misused in British Columbia’s correctional system,” says Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, and member of Tsartlip First Nation. “We need a legislative approach that guarantees the rights of inmates to humane treatment and ensures transparency and accountability in the operations of these facilities.”

The United Nations defines solitary confinement as isolating individuals for over 22 hours daily without meaningful interaction, labeling it torture beyond 15 days per the Nelson Mandela Rules. Despite these findings, on any given day in our provincial correctional facilities, 33 people are held in violation of these human rights principles. 

This bill means fair treatment for individuals in our correctional facilities and ensures public accountability regarding behind-the-scenes operations. It aligns with the 2022 resolution from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) to ban solitary confinement, a 2021 report from the B.C. Ombudsperson about youth detention in the province, and the 2019 decision from the BC Court of Appeal that found prolonged solitary confinement to be inhumane and unconstitutional. 

The Correction Statutes Amendment Act makes the following improvements to provincial standards for solitary confinement: 

  • Restricts the use of solitary confinement to 72 hours at a maximum, and prohibits the use of solitary confinement for more than 6 days a year for an individual.
  • Prohibits a person from being held in solitary confinement if they are pregnant or recently post-partum, are endangering themselves, have a prescribed disability, or require medical observation.
  • Gives people the opportunity for at least 4 hours per day outside of their cell, including a 1-hour window for exercise in the open air.
  • Specifies that cells must provide darkness at night and natural light during the day, and a window that allows for meaningful human interaction.
  • Requires the provincial director of correctional centres to publish annual disaggregated statistics on the number of individuals held in solitary confinement.

Background:

  • In response to the 2019 ruling of the B.C. In The Court of Appeal, the BC NDP government introduced an amendment to the BC Correction Act Regulation in 2020 that introduced a 15-day limit on solitary confinement. 
  • There were 8,281 new admissions to provincial correctional facilities in 2020/21, and despite the regulatory amendment, on average 33 individuals on any given day had been in solitary confinement for more than 15 days. An average of 10 of those individuals had been in solitary confinement for more than 60 days. 
  • 24% of individuals with experience in solitary confinement identify as Indigenous, and 35% of the incarcerated population identify as Indigenous, despite representing only 6% of the province’s population.
  • Of the individuals placed in solitary confinement, 77% had been placed there for administrative reasons, not discipline.
  • The federal government promised to end the practice of solitary confinement in 2020, however reports find that it is still being used under the name “structured intervention units”.
  • In June 2021, the Office of the Ombudsperson released the “Youth in Custody” report. The Ombudsperson issued a suite of recommendations to improve systemic oversight of separate confinement, to better protect the rights of youth in custody.

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Media contact
JoJo Beattie   
Press Secretary
B.C. Green Caucus
+1 250-882-6187 | jojo.beattie@leg.bc.ca

 

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