The conditions and regime in the Quebec SHU in the Correctional Development
Centre were not only physically more intrusive than at Millhaven but there
was not even a pretence at there being a phased program. This is what
I saw when I visited the CDC.
Block 5 consists of two ranges of cells with 20 cells
in each range. There are two common rooms, an interview room, and a central
controlled area for the custody officers . . . The cells in the CDC have
no windows to the outside to admit natural light. The door contains a
window approximately eight inches by eight inches looking into the corridor
. . . One feature of Block 5 differentiates it from all other segregation
units in Canada; prisoners in the cells are kept under surveillance by
officers patrolling on top of the cells. A catwalk runs the length of
the cell block, and a window in the ceiling of each cell permits the armed
officers to see into the cell below as they patrol. Prisoners look up
through the ceiling window at a gun, and are reminded constantly of the
pervasive surveillance by the noise of the guard's boots on the roof as
he walks back and forth above the range . . .
At the time of my first visit in August 1980, despite the fact that
the SHU had been open for three years, the [phase] program existed only
on paper. Phase 1 was simply "the hole;" 23 hour solitary confinement.
The regime in Block 5 for phase 2 and phase 3 prisoners provided for two
hours exercise in the yard each day in the morning or afternoon, and permitted
all prisoners in both phases to go into one of the two common rooms from
6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. each night . . . Control of prisoners' movements
was even more strict than at Millhaven in all phases. Each time a prisoner
left his cell he was escorted by three officers, and in phase 2 and phase
3 prisoners were required to enter the common room one at a time through
an ante-chamber. In all phases prisoner interviews, including those with
staff, took place in the interview room, where a thick wire grill separated
the prisoner from the interviewer.
In my meetings with the staff and the warden of the CDC there was no
pretence that the phase system had been implemented in the unit. The warden
told me frankly that given the limited facilities . . . there was no sense
in pretending that there were distinctions in the quality of imprisonment.
The phase program, designed to distinguish between Special Handling
Units and the old-style segregation units, was the focal point for most
of the criticism directed at the new units by prisoners I interviewed
in 1980. They saw the program as a cruel parody of reform, because apart
from the increased opportunities for exercise and association with other
prisoners, there was little in the SHUs in the early '80s through which
a prisoner could demonstrate positive change except to put in time and
not commit disciplinary offences. The concept that each prisoner would
have an individual program plan which would enable him to move through
the SHU depending upon his own progress was further corrupted by a change
in the Commissioner's Directive in December, 1980; henceforth, progression
through the first three phases of the SHU program, prosaically described
as "restricted association, limited association and increased association,"
would "normally" be expected to take a minimum of two years, to which
was added a fourth phase of a one year conditional transfer to a maximum
security institution. The effect of this two year rule was to literally
double the average length of stay of prisoners at the SHUs.
The 1980 Commissioner's Directive also broadened the category of a "particularly
dangerous inmate" who could be sent to the SHU. Such a prisoner was one
"whose documented actions or demonstrated intentions while in custody
or under sentence constitute a persistent and serious threat to staff,
inmates or other persons." Such conduct included, but was not limited
to, abduction; hostage taking; serious incidents of violence; escape or
attempted or planned escape with violence; the manufacture or possession,
introduction or attempted introduction into an institution of firearms,
ammunition, high explosives or offensive weapons; incitement or conspiracy
to kill or riot and substantiated serious threats against the life of
a staff member, inmate or other person ( Prisoners
of Isolation at 156).
The Directive also established a committee -- the National SHU Review
Committee -- to consider applications from wardens to transfer prisoners
to a SHU, thereby creating a different process for this form of involuntary
transfer to higher security. The committee consisted of senior officials
of the CSC under the chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, Security.
The National Committee also had, sitting as independent observers, a representative
from the Correctional Investigator's Office and from the St. Leonard's
Society of Canada, a non-government after-care agency. Under these special
transfer procedures the National Committee considered the warden's documented
application together with any written submission of the prisoner. There
was no provision for a personal hearing. However, the National Committee
was also required to review the case of each prisoner admitted to the
SHU every six months. In conducting these reviews, it travelled to the
units and the prisoner was permitted to appear before the committee to
make oral representations regarding his progression through the phases
of the program and his ultimate release to a maximum security institution.
As with admission, this ultimate release was determined by the National
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