‘People go to prison for punishment not to be punished’: advocates await Saskatchewan review of solitary confinement

Click to play video: 'Province reviewing solitary confinement guidelines but won’t commit to minimum stays'
Province reviewing solitary confinement guidelines but won’t commit to minimum stays
WATCH ABOVE: Saskatchewan reviewing solitary confinement guidelines but won’t commit to minimum stays – Jun 7, 2016

There’s a controversial tool used in Saskatchewan jails called administrative segregation, also known federally as solitary confinement

“Basically, what it means is you’re confined for 22 to 23 hours of the day,” Ministry of Corrections spokesperson Drew Wilby explained.

Like in many provinces, Saskatchewan segregation can last indefinitely.

“It’s something we are considering as part of the review,” Wilby added.

A picture of the Regina Correctional Centre. File / Global News

That review of the program has been ongoing since last spring and is expected to be completed in the next few months.

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It was partially sparked by the inquest into the federal prison suicide death of Ashley Smith in Ontario that made over 100 recommendations in 2013 on how to prevent a similar situation from occurring.

READ MORE: Ashley Smith inquest: Key recommendations from the jury

One of the most notable recommendations was a 15-day consecutive maximum in segregation.

“Many of the people that are in our correctional facilities have not yet been convicted of a crime,” John Howard Society CEO Greg Fleet said.

The non-profit society looks at effective responses to crime and prison reform. Fleet identified statistics from the Ministry of Justice, which showed the average time spent in segregation was 38.6 days.

The research analyzed the province’s four jails at various periods throughout the last year and a half.

“We know that often solitary confinement is used as a way to warehouse or manage some of the most difficult prisoners,” Canadian Civil Liberties Association interim director Laura Berger said.

There have been notable instances of solitary confinement. According to corrections officials, Indian Posse Gang member Richard Wolfe spent 640 consecutive days in segregation while in a Regina jail, something he didn’t contest.

Indian Posse Gang member Richard Daniel Wolfe recently passed away, but spent 640 days in segregation while in a Regina jail. RCMP

“What it’s designed to do is protect individuals from others in the facility or protect the facility from individuals,” Wilby said.

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However, advocates are wary that for some it can do more harm than good.

“Use of segregation obviously has [a] psychological effect on inmates,” Fleet added.

“In terms of pure public safety, we should care how prisoners are treated because it’s important that they be released no worse than they went in,” Berger said.

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