McKiggan Hebert & Valent Legal have filed a class action against the province of Nova Scotia for damages for breach of Charter Rights for the excessive use of solitary confinement in provincially run correctional facilities.

The Notice of Action claims that the Province of Nova Scotia has been negligent and has breached the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by placing prisoners in solitary confinement for extended periods of time.

The class includes all prisoners who were placed in solitary confinement for more than 15 days during their incarceration in a provincially run correctional facility.

Repeated Calls to End Solitary Confinement and Segregation

The United Nations has called on Canada to ban solitary confinement. The use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities has been criticized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association which called for an end to the practice in 2009.

In 2009 the office of the Federal Correctional Investigator recommended to the Canadian Justice Minister the:

… complete prohibition of prolonged segregation of offenders with acute mental health concerns.

The investigators report from 2011-2012 stated:

I once more recommend, in keeping with Canada’s domestic and international human rights commitments, laws and norms, had absolute prohibition on the practice of placing mentally ill offenders and those at risk of suicide or serious self-injury in prolonged segregation.

Solitary Confinement Causes Severe Harm

A world renowned expert on the psychological effects of solitary confinement, Dr. Stuart Grassian, a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard’s School of Medicine had this to say:

Solitary confinement – that is the confinement of a prisoner alone in a cell for all, or nearly all, of the day with minimal environmental stimulation and minimal opportunity for social interaction – can cause severe psychiatric harm.

Dr. Grassian reported in a paper titled “The Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement”:

… the psychiatric harm caused by solitary confinement had become exceedingly apparent while over 100 years ago.

Does Solitary Confinement Prevents Rehabilitation?

If one of the main purposes of the penal system is rehabilitation, and the effects of solitary confinement can wreak havoc on the mental health of prisoners, then the use of isolation as discipline creates a system for prisoners to end up becoming more dangerous to others and themselves.

Time to Face the Facts

Governments around the world have known for decades that solitary confinement causes severe psychiatric harm and aggravates pre-existing mental illness. It is time that the practice be stopped and persons who have been subjected to solitary confinement receive fair redress.

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