Ottawa introduces new criteria to govern the use of “bare cells”

Ottawa introduces new criteria to govern the use of “bare cells”

The use of bare cells has been called “unreasonable” and “degrading by the Correctional Investigator of Canada.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino released new guidelines Monday on the use of “bare cells,” spaces intended to prevent inmates from bringing contraband into federal prisons.


Prisoners suspected of concealing contraband items, such as drugs, in their bodies are held in a cell with no sanitation facilities on the assumption that all items will be expelled.

This ministerial directive to the Correctional Service of Canada requires prisons to provide written justification when inmates are held in such cells for more than two days.

It also requests that the service take consider the physical and mental well-being of offenders when assessing this justification.

In this year's budget, the federal government banned the practice for women suspected of carrying contraband items in their vaginas, in response to a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling last year that found the practice illegal.

However, several people, including the Correctional Investigator of Canada, Ivan Zinger, have condemned the use of bare cells for any prisoner as being too restrictive and demeaning.

Mr. Mendicino's directive requires that written notice and justification be provided to the regional office when a prisoner is expected to be in a bare cell for more than 48 hours, and to the national office when the stay exceeds 72 hours. .

The Correctional Investigator of Canada, Ivan Zinger

The directive further specifies that inmates must have adequate bedding, nutritious food, clothing and toiletries.

Mr. Zinger indicated in his 2020 annual report that three days is too long, writing that in his opinion, beyond 72 hours, there can be no other reason or justification for holding or detaining a person in such custodial conditions, and after three days this procedure surely becomes unreasonable, even strictly punitive.

At the time, the Correctional Service of Canada rejected this recommendation, stating that some people may avoid having a bowel movement for longer periods of time.

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