Politics

Senate committee approves changes to solitary confinement bill

A committee of senators has approved changes to a bill that aims to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons — including one key change that would place a 48-hour maximum on the amount of time an inmate can be kept in isolation.

Bill C-83 has been panned by a number of human-rights organizations

Last October, the Liberal government announced Bill C-83 would end the practice of segregating federal prisoners who pose risks to security or to themselves. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A committee of senators has approved changes to a bill that aims to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons — including one key change that would place a 48-hour maximum on the amount of time an inmate can be kept in isolation.

Last October, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Bill C-83 would end the practice of segregating federal prisoners who pose risks to security or to themselves.

Inmates who do pose risks would instead be moved to new "structured intervention units" where they are supposed to get better access to programming, interventions and mental-health care.

But Bill C-83 has been panned by a number of human-rights organizations who say the bill offers only a cosmetic rebranding of solitary confinement.

Sen. Kim Pate, who has called for the bill to be scrapped entirely, successfully sponsored several amendments, including adding a 48-hour time limit for anyone placed in a structured intervention unit.

This change also says a judge must approve any extension beyond 48 hours — a provision that adds judicial oversight to decisions about isolation, which is something Pate believes is crucial in safeguarding prisoners' human rights.

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