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e-3023 (Correctional system)

Petition to the House of Commons

Whereas:
  • Bill C-83 came into force on November 30, 2019, replacing segregation with Structured Intervention Units (SIU);
  • The SIUs aimed to end long-term solitary confinement in accordance with international law and Canadian court decisions that found its use unconstitutional;
  • The Implementation Advisory Panel, which oversaw SIU implementation, found solitary confinement is ongoing;
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated this situation;
  • Prisoners report they often end up in SIU due to conflict with officers who antagonize and provoke them to act out; and
  • Other evidence suggests that solitary confinement is occurring both within and outside of the SIUs.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Establish a Commission of Inquiry to examine solitary confinement, in all forms, to ensure prisoners’ rights are safeguarded and promote transformational change in the culture of the Correctional Service;
2. Immediately define solitary confinement in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and prohibit its prolonged use, pursuant to the definition in United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;
3. Prohibit all forms of solitary confinement which are not expressly authorized by legislation;
4. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture;
5. Fund legal aid for federal prisoners to ensure access to counsel; and
6. Require all correctional officers to wear body cameras whenever they interact with prisoners.

Response by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JOËL LIGHTBOUND, M.P.

In November 2019, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) was amended to implement a new Structured Intervention Unit (SIU) model and abolish the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation in all federal correctional institutions. This new model is fundamentally different from the previous model and constitutes a historic transformation of the federal correctional system. SIUs are meant as a temporary measure and are intended to assist inmates and provide them with the opportunity to engage in targeted interventions and programs to support their safe return to a mainstream inmate population as quickly as possible. Although COVID-19 has created unique challenges throughout the federal correctional system, including SIUs, the Government and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) are strongly committed to the successful implementation of this new model, both during and after the pandemic.

 

Under the law, inmates in an SIU must be provided with the opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside of their cell, and two hours of meaningful human contact through interaction with others. In addition, inmates in an SIU have access to targeted programs and interventions.  Furthermore, all inmates, including those placed in SIUs, have reasonable access to counsel and to the courts and are provided with information regarding the availability of legal aid services, upon request.

 

The SIU model responds to obligations under Canadian law. Many safeguards specified in Canada’s legislation were guided by international sources, such as the Mandela Rules. These include the requirement for enhanced health care monitoring and empowering health care practitioners to make recommendations on an inmate’s conditions of confinement. The SIU system was purpose-built to monitor and minimize situations where inmates are spending too much time in a cell, as well as provide strong safeguards such as enhanced health services and external decision-making.

 

With respect to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, work is ongoing on this complex and important treaty. Federal, provincial and territorial government officials have been carefully assessing options for implementation, by studying the approaches taken in various other countries that have already implemented the Optional Protocol. To date, the consideration process has involved two rounds of consultations led by Justice Canada, in 2016 and 2017, with Provincial and Territorial governments, and also within the Government of Canada. While significant progress has been made, there is a range of policy and implementation issues and additional consultations that remain to be undertaken in the future.

 

There were 181 inmates in Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) on May 13, 2021, which roughly represents 1.5% of federal inmates in Canada.

 

SIUs are in place at 15 of our 43 institutions. Inmates can only be transferred to an SIU if they meet one of the three criteria in section 34 (1) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and there are no other reasonable alternatives to placement in a SIU. SIUs are meant as a temporary measure to help inmates adopt more positive behaviours that keep the institution safe and secure. 

 

Institutional security is critical, and inmates who are transferred to an ISU pose exceptional and extreme challenges to institutional security.

 

Before transferring an inmate to a SIU, every possible reasonable alternative is explored. Alternatives include, but are not limited to, a transfer to a different unit or range with the institution, involvement of the Inmate Committee or the range representative, mediation or conflict resolution, transfer to another institution or a regional treatment centre, involvement of staff who have influence over the inmate, such as an Elder, Chaplain or Indigenous Liaison Officer. 

 

It is important to note that support for inmates is not a “one-size fits all approach” and involves some difficult and complex situations. For example, inmates with complex health care needs often require interdisciplinary teams to work with them. While some cases can resolve quickly through informal resolution, others take time, and require ongoing care and steady work to help the inmates safely reintegrate within mainstream population.

 

Health Services

 

Within 24 hours of their transfer to an SIU, an inmate is referred to Health Services for an assessment of their health, including mental health, which is repeated every 14 days. This is followed by a mental health assessment within 28 days of being transferred to an SIU.

 

If, at any time, a registered health care professional believes that, due to health reasons, an inmate should not remain in the SIU or that the inmate’s conditions of confinement should be altered, the registered health care professional will make a recommendation in writing to the institutional head. The institutional head must make a decision as soon as practicable. If the institutional head does not implement the recommendation, the case is referred to the Health Committee, which is chaired by the Assistant Commissioner of Health Services.

 

External Oversight Mechanism

 

Through the establishment of an external oversight mechanism, the CCRA provides a critical safeguard. Although CSC maintains its own internal protocols and review processes for SIU transfers, Independent External Decision Makers (IEDMs) across the country operate at arms-length from CSC to provide decision-making oversight of an inmate’s conditions and duration of confinement in a SIU. IEDMs monitor and review inmate cases on an ongoing basis and provide recommendations and decisions to CSC.

 

An IEDM review occurs under the following conditions:

 

IEDMs review an inmate's case under four specific circumstances, as defined in the CCRA and regulations:

 

Length of time

 

  • An inmate has been confined in an ISU for 90 consecutive days (and every subsequent 60 days).

 

Conditions of Confinement

 

  • An inmate has not received a minimum of four hours per day out of their cell, or at least two hours of interaction with others, for five consecutive days, or 15 cumulative days in a 30-day period.
  • If the IEDM finds that CSC has taken all reasonable steps in the above determination, but in the last 10 consecutive days the inmate has not received these opportunities, the IEDM must determine whether the inmate should remain in the SIU.

 

Health care

 

  • If the Health Committee determines that an inmate’s conditions of confinement in the structured intervention unit should not be altered in accordance with a recommendation of a registered health care professional, the IEDM must determine whether the inmate should remain in the unit or whether the inmate’s conditions of confinement in the unit should be altered.

 

IEDMs have binding authority to determine that an inmate should not remain in an SIU, or in some circumstances, order that the conditions of confinement in the SIU to be altered. Each IEDM brings specific expertise to their role. They are comprised of lawyers, professors, and researchers specializing in the fields of criminal justice, mental health, vulnerable populations, human rights, and administrative law. Since the beginning of SIU operations, IEDMs have done significant work, rendering more than 1,400 binding decisions.

 

In addition to the important role played by IEDMs, the Office of the Correctional Investigator maintains broad oversight of federal corrections and is empowered by the CCRA to investigate the operations and decisions of CSC, including those related to SIUs. Further, several external reports prepared by academics have provided valuable insight into the operation of SIUs.

 

Summary

 

Since the implementation of the Structured Intervention Units on November 30, 2019, there are significantly fewer inmates in SIUs than in the former model. This shows that many efforts are being made to proactively manage inmates within a mainstream population and use of SIUs as a last resort.  Five years ago, in March 2016 there were 454 inmates in administrative segregation compared to 182 inmates in SIUs across the country on May 5, 2021. During 2015-16, there were 6,788 admissions to administrative segregation whereas the total number of authorizations for transfer to an SIU that started between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 was 2,267.

 

We recognizes that there are cases where inmates in SIUs are not taking advantage of opportunities to leave their cell. We are working to provide more options for inmates to engage in time out of cell and opportunities for meaningful human contact. We have  also been taking actions to address some of the trends and regional differences identified through our data and that of external academics and stakeholders. With respect to data, CSC also has a dedicated project team that is currently working to improve the integrity, timeliness and quality of data available. In addition, CSC has gathered best practices and is sharing them across the country. This helps to target common challenges to support frontline operations. Regular meetings and town halls take place with regions to build on lessons learned and determine additional improvements needed.

 

As we continue to learn and make adjustments, CSC remains steadfast in its commitment to ensure the success of this new correctional model while we fulfill our mandate of ensuring the safe rehabilitation of federal inmates in Canada.

 

With respect to body cameras, CSC is not currently exploring their use at this time.

Open for signature
December 16, 2020, at 2:07 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 15, 2021, at 2:07 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke)
May 12, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00953)
Government response tabled
June 23, 2021
Photo - Randall Garrison
Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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