Trudeau Government Moves to Renew Solitary Confinement Panel After Backlash

The move comes shortly after a VICE News story revealed a scathing report had been sent to the government by the panel of experts.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA
August 27, 2020, 7:18pm
Justin Trudeau, prison
Image by The Canadian Press

The Trudeau government is hoping to re-appoint a panel of experts to study solitary confinement in prisons, a day after the panel’s scathing report was released to the media.

In a statement, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he hopes to renew the volunteer panel’s mandate, and draft a plan to “help ensure the panel gets all the information it needs to complete its work in a timely manner.”

The panel initially ended its yearlong mandate with no significant results to show from its study of new isolation units, where inmates can be housed for up to 20 hours a day.

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The panel said in its report it was “powerless to accomplish the job that it was set up to do” and put the blame on the Justin Trudeau government.

The report was leaked to media on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Blair’s officer said it was working urgently to address the matter. But as the report itself notes, the government was made aware of the problems in March, and again in July.

In its yearlong study the panel found that the corrections agency was not adequately collecting or analyzing critical data on how it put prisoners into “structured intervention units.”

The government was not even tracking how long inmates were placed into these new units, how many hours of human contact they each day, or statistics on which prisons were using these new units, according to the report.

“The issues raised by CSC’s apparent inability to monitor and evaluate its own operation are not issues solely about its cooperation and support for this panel of unpaid volunteers,” the panel wrote. “Much more important is the fact that CSC is telling us that it does not have systematic information on the operation of its Structured Intervention Units and apparently never made the gathering of this information a priority.”

As a result, Canada still does not know if its new system, as the old system did, subjects federal inmates to torture.

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