Segregation Post-April 26 -- the P4W and the Penthouse
at the B.C. Penitentiary
The women involved in the April 22 incident remained in segregation
from that date until December 1994 or January 1995. The Arbour Report
traces the conditions of their confinement, the reasons given by the CSC
for its necessity, the segregation review process through which it was
maintained, and the impact of the segregation on the women.
On April 27, 1994, the warden’s order that the inmates in segregation
were to get nothing without specific direction from her, was forcefully
repeated in the segregation log, and even more stringently interpreted
than in the days before the IERT attendance. The resulting regime of denial
continued for an extended period of time . . .
. . . Mattresses were not reintroduced in segregation at the Prison
for Women until May 10th. Restrictions on the availability of clothing
continued for some period of time, and even included the failure to comply
with Unit Manager Hilder’s direction that women be provided with street
clothes prior to attending in court. In the period immediately following
April 27th, toilet paper was restricted to "one or two squares" per inmate.
Underwear was denied, even in the circumstance of an inmate who required
the use of a sanitary pad with vaginal cream. Regular cleaning of the
segregation area, garbage removal and laundry was very slow to resume.
At the Prison for Women, showers were not regularly provided in the initial
weeks. Phone calls (including calls to the Correctional Investigator)
were denied, as were specific requests for cigarettes, ice and face cloths
. . .
While there was some attempt to suggest that the basis of the overall
regime was grounded in security concerns, most witnesses who testified
appeared to concede that there was little in the way of specific security
justifications for the deprivations noted above . . .(Arbour at 132)
This deprivation of basic amenities replicated the conditions I observed
at Kent Institution in H unit in 1983 and in the Penthouse at the B.C.
Penitentiary a decade earlier. The regime of reducing prisoners to a Hobbesian
state of brutish nature to demonstrate that they are under the total control
of their jailers has long been a cornerstone of the customary law of segregation
units. What Madam Justice Arbour found was that at the P4W, customary
law had little difficulty maintaining its ascendancy over the provisions
of the CCRA.
There were other elements of déjà vu at the Prison for Women.
When the inmates who had been transferred to the
Regional Treatment Centre were returned, heavy treadplate was welded to
the bars of all cells in the dissociation unit. This was done to discourage
the throwing of objects or fluids from the cells. There had been no incidents
of throwing anything through the bars after April 27th, either at the
Regional Treatment Centre or at the Prison for Women. The effect of the
addition of the treadplate was to increase markedly the oppressiveness
of the dissociation unit cells, and the isolation of their inhabitants.
Although almost $38,000.00 was spent installing the treadplate, it was
not considered appropriate to spend the $2,000.00 which had been estimated
as necessary to provide electricity to the cells so that televisions or
radios could be provided, until late November or early December of 1994.
(Arbour at 133)
This "improvement" to the segregation unit mirrored a similar "improvement"
made to the Penthouse in the wake of the 1975 Federal Court judgement
in McCann. The tiny windows in the cell
doors were enlarged to permit greater light into the interior, but within
months these were covered with a heavy steel-wire grill, isolating prisoners
even further from the outside world.
Madam Justice Arbour was especially critical of the Segregation Review
process at the P4W.
It is difficult to discern any indication in the
segregation review process or otherwise, that any assessment was made
of whether the statutory requirements for continued segregation were met.
. . . There is little, if any, consistency in the
reasons for continued segregation recorded in the segregation review documents.
Nor do the reasons advanced in the segregation reviews specifically address
the question of whether or how those reasons relate to the statutory standards.
Throughout the segregation reviews, there is repeated
reference to the significance of the outstanding criminal charges to the
ongoing segregation of these women. In a number of instances, the outstanding
charges are identified as the significant, and in some cases the only
reasons for the continued segregation. This is so notwithstanding that
it was conceded, as it must be, that the existence of such outstanding
charges cannot by itself justify continued segregation.
The Regulations contemplate that an independent assessment
of whether the statutory requirements for continued segregation have been
met will occur every 60 days at the Regional Headquarters. The evidence
raises a serious question as to whether such independent reviews occur
. . .
It is apparent that the person conducting the review at the Regional
Headquarters is heavily influenced by the judgement of the institution
as reflected in the paper or electronic record of the segregation review.
Indeed, there was evidence that insufficient attention was paid even to
that record. (Arbour at 136-37)
Madam Justice Arbour’s findings regarding the deferential nature of
regional reviews parallel my observations at Kent. Similarly, justifying
segregation on the basis of outstanding charges reflects the persistence
of the customary law at Kent, notwithstanding the provisions of the CCRA.
Madam Justice Arbour concluded her review with an assessment of the
impact of prolonged segregation on the prisoners at the P4W.
In October of 1994, the prison’s psychologists advised
the prison staff of the psychological ill effects being suffered by the
women. Their report read:
Many of the symptoms currently observed are typical
effects of long-term isolation and sensory deprivation. One thing which
seems to have increased the deprivation in this current situation is the
new grillwork which has been put up on the cells. The following symptoms
have been observed: perceptual distortions, auditory and visual hallucinations,
flashbacks, increased sensitivity and startle response, concentration
difficulties and subsequent effect on school work, emotional distress
due to the extreme boredom and monotony, anxiety, particularly associated
with leaving the cell or seg area, generalized emotional lability at times,
fear that they are "going crazy" or "losing their minds" because of limited
interaction with others which results in lack of external frames of reference,
low mood and generalized sense of hopelessness.
Part of this last symptom stems from a lack of clear
goals for them. They do not know what they have to do to earn privileges
or gain release from segregation . . . Their behaviour had been satisfactory
since their return from RTC but has not earned them additional privileges,
nor have they been informed that their satisfactory behaviour will result
in any change of status.
If the current situation continues it will ultimately
lead to some kind of crisis, including violence, suicide and self-injury.
They will become desperate enough to use any means to assert some form
of control of their lives. The constant demands to segregation staff [are]
related to needs for external stimulation and some sense of control of
The segregation of these inmates continued for between
two and a half to three months after these observations were made. (Arbour at 139-40)
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