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Segregation In Canada And Other Western Democracies – Mark Addo


Segregation in Canada and Other Western Democracies

Author: Mark Addo

Several jurisdictions around the world use solitary confinement because of its long-standing history in prison administration. However, solitary confinement has adverse health and human rights effects on prisoners. The practice has led to several deaths and increased incidence of mental illness. This paper explores the international standard for solitary confinement and applies it to the various practice of segregation in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and France. It also helps to identify among the selected countries whether they meet the international standard for segregation in prison operations.

International Standard for Solitary Confinement

The United Nations addressed solitary confinement in the UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisons (1990).[1] In 2015, the principles were revised to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and adopted as the Nelson Mandela Rules.[2] The Nelson Mandela Rules are not legally binding, but they represent the current standard for human rights law and prison operation. Rule 43(1) states that “[i]n no circumstances may restrictions or disciplinary sanctions amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”[3] Rule 45 prohibits the use of solitary confinement except as an exceptional measure of last resort that shall be subjected to independent review. Rule 45 also prohibits placing prisoners with mental or physical disabilities in solitary confinement because it will worsen their condition.[4] These rules apply wherever solitary confinement is used in the world.

Administrative Segregation in Canada

“Solitary confinement” in Canada existed in the form of administrative and disciplinary segregation. Both types of segregation entail locking an inmate in a cell for more than 22 hours a day. Administrative segregation was used to separate prisoners that were either at risk or posed a threat to the safety of prisoners or staff in penitentiaries.[5] Disciplinary segregation was used for punitive purposes and was highly regulated by law and policy. As a result of the heavy regulation of disciplinary segregation, most Canadian correctional officers preferred to rely heavily on administrative segregation to isolate prisoners creating abuses of its usage.  To read the full article, click here.


[1] Sharon Shalev, “Monitoring and Evaluating Solitary Confinement,” ICPA Newsletter (15 March 2019), online:
[2] Ibid.
[3] Sharon Shalev, “Mandela Rules UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisons (2015 Rev) (‘Nelson Mandela Rules’)” (2019), online: Solitary Confinement <>.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Lyne Casavant & Maxime Charron-Tousignant, “Legislative Summary of Bill C-83: An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and Act” (2018), online: Library of Parliament <> at 2-3.  

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