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The Study Group on Dissociation and the Report to Parliament

Several months after the McCann trial began, the Solicitor General established the Study Group on Dissociation, under the chairmanship of James Vantour, to review the use of both punitive and administrative dissociation. The Study Group presented its report a week before Mr. Justice Heald handed down his decision. I have explained in Sector 3 that the report of the Vantour Study Group endorsed my own recommendations that Independent Chairpersons be appointed to adjudicate serious disciplinary offences, albeit on an experimental basis. The Study Group recognized that prolonged segregation "enhances the inmate’s anti-social attitude and, in general, constitutes a self-fulfilling prophecy" ( Report of the Study Group on Dissociation at 24). The Study Group also pointed to the Canadian Penitentiary Service’s lack of compliance with existing law, regulations, and policy dealing with dissociation.

The failure to pay strict attention to the [Commissioner's] Directives reflects the philosophy of the Canadian Penitentiary Service toward dissociated inmates . . . We agree with the claims of many inmates that those in dissociation are "forgotten" or "ignored." . . This means that [a prisoner] may be deprived of privileges to which he is entitled according to the Penitentiary Service Regulations . . . We encountered many situations in which regulations were ignored by staff in charge of dissociation facilities. ( Report of the Study Group on Dissociation at 16 - 17)

The Study Group, in its proposals for reform of administrative segregation, recommended the establishment of a Segregation Review Board chaired by the Director (warden) of the institution. The Segregation Review Board would review a prisoner’s case within five working days of the warden’s decision to segregate, and at least once every two weeks thereafter. The Board would be required to develop a plan to reintegrate the prisoner into the population as soon as possible, to monitor that plan during subsequent reviews, to maintain written records on the substance of each review, and to forward such reports to the Regional Classification Board. The Study Group did not recommend changes to the broad criteria justifying segregation, nor did it address the issue of independent adjudicators for the Segregation Review Boards, despite recommending that disciplinary hearings be run by Independent Chairpersons.

Independent adjudication and a reformed disciplinary and administrative segregation process were the subjects of further recommendations by the House of Commons Sub-Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada in its 1977 Report to Parliament (Ottawa: Minister of Supply ans Services, 1977). The Sub-Committee endorsed both the concept of Independent Chairpersons for disciplinary hearings and the Study Group’s recommendation that a Segregation Review Board be set up in each institution to review cases after five days and every two weeks thereafter. On the question of independent adjudication, the Sub-Committee had this to say:

We have debated with ourselves whether such an internal review provides adequate protection for inmates, and in particular whether the chairman of the Review Board should be the same kind of independent person we recommend for Disciplinary Boards. Our present conclusion is that the proposal we have described, which is based upon the thorough study of the Vantour Committee, should not be judged and found wanting until it has been tried. The adequacy of the protections should be reconsidered after two years of experience. ( Report to Parliament at 92)

It was not until the Report to Parliament was filed that the Canadian Penitentiary Service began implementing the Vantour Committee’s recommendations regarding the appointment of independent chairpersons to Disciplinary Boards and the establishment of Segregation Review Boards -- a full two years after those recommendations had first been made.

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