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It’s not completely fair to say that the Kent administration did not implement some changes within the dissociation area ...

  1. Tables and beds have been installed in the cells, prisoners no longer have to sleep on the floor;
  2. Prison population is now allowed to send canteen items to the H Unit via the Prison Committee;
  3. Inmates in dissociation are now supplied small amounts of toothpaste in place of the powder that was once given out;
  4. The Inmate Committee now has access to the keepers of H Unit ...However, they are still not able to see the prisoners;
  5. If there is a rumour that a prisoner in H Unit has been beat up by staff, it has started to happen that the administration would produce the prisoner for inspection by the Inmate Committee. This is indeed a very positive step forward;
  6. The use of special food trays was recently approved for H Unit and now prisoners no longer have to eat off soggy paper plates. 133

Since this description was written there have been further changes. A small library has been placed in H unit; some prisoners are now employed as librarians, tier cleaners, and food servers, jobs which allow them extra time out of their cells; prisoners are permitted to shower every night; some prisoners have been permitted open visits; a plastic mirror has been supplied to prisoners for their own use, and they are now allowed to retain their own Bic pens in their cells. A few hobbies are now authorized for H unit, and several pieces of work-out equipment have been placed in the exercise yard. Following the practice in SHU, television sets have recently been provided to prisoners on a selective basis. Prisoners who keep their cells clean and abide by all rules in the unit are permitted a TV in their cells. Prisoners’ discontent with the discretionary manner in which the TV privilege is dispensed is reflected in the fact that within two months of the introduction of the ‘TV program,’ the three prisoners who met the criteria for a TV voluntarily surrendered the sets.

A prisoner who had served time in segregation both in the British Columbia Penitentiary and in Kent made this comparison:

The segregation area itself I found to be worse than the infamous BC Pen Penthouse. Worse in the sense that a modem updated prison allows an archaic back- ward attitude to exist. They continue to strip people of their dignity and lock us away in a little cement box for periods of 23 ½ hours a day. The exercise area that does exist is only 30 x 20 completely enclosed with wire bars and cement ...Unlike other segregation areas in Canada that allow prisoners in segregation to have their cell effects with them that they would normally have within the main prison, the Kent segregation area does not. Even the Commissioner’s Directives which govern the conditions in segregation units in Canada are ignored by the people who are put in charge of each unit here at Kent. One guard said to me when I asked for my personal effects as per CD 209: ‘We don’t follow the Commissioner’s Directives here.’ In 1975, the Federal Court of Canada declared solitary confinement to be cruel and unusual punishment. Yet the administrators in charge of the H Unit at Kent continue to run and operate the solitary confinement unit that is similar to, if not worse than, the BC Pen penthouse.

I ask you, the outside free community, to picture yourselves locked up in your washroom for weeks and months on end. This is the dilemma that prisoners in segregation units are confronted with. It slowly drives you insane. It eats away at you until the hate inside you somehow gives you the strength to survive. 134

Since Kent opened, I have interviewed many of the prisoners who have been in segregation in H unit, and I have been permitted by the administration to inspect the cells and other areas of the unit. I have also had the opportunity to discuss the conditions with officers in charge of the unit. It is highly significant that one of the officers in charge, who had extensive experience of the penthouse at the British Columbia Penitentiary, was of the opinion that H unit was worse than the penthouse, from both the prisoners’ and the staff’s point of view. As he explained, the unit is smaller than the penthouse and has a much smaller complement of staff. Most staff members have had no previous experience in dealing with the problems of segregated prisoners. He agreed that there were no programs in H unit and that, given the fact that the unit was often filled to capacity, it was extremely difficult even to ensure that each prisoner had his daily exercise. He conceded that the officer in charge of the unit was left with a great deal of discretion as to how strictly he enforced the regulations. For example, the segregation rules require that prisoners ‘shall be skin- frisked whenever they move from their cell to the exercise area and back to their cells.’135 The officer recognized the degrading effects of skin-frisks and did not insist on them when the prisoners went to exercise unless there was a particular reason to believe that a prisoner might be armed. Similarly, this officer had permitted one prisoner, who in the past had had extreme difficulty handling solitary confinement, to spend substantial periods of time out of his cell cleaning the tier. The officer readily recognized that when his tour of duty was over the next person in charge would probably adhere more closely to the letter of the regulations.

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