Need to change protocol 0
It's hard to imagine how prison administrators get to the point where they can have a group of women, all aboriginal, locked up in cells for 23 hours per day, for years. The name of the prison program that made this possible, sanitized into the innocuous sounding "Management Protocol", doesn't tell the truth about the years of psychological torture that near-complete isolation is for these women.
Bobbi Lee Worm, an aboriginal woman at Fraser Valley Institution, has been in segregation for three years. Renee Acoby, another aboriginal woman, has been in segregation in Ontario since 2004. It's difficult to know exactly how many women are in endless segregation of one kind or another across Canada, but Corrections Canada says just two are left in the Management Protocol program.
On Monday, after a full week of media coverage on Bobbi Lee's lawsuit that challenges this barbaric program - that has locked aboriginal women up for years in cells the size of bathrooms and thrown away the key - Corrections Canada said they would be "moving away" from the program.
Moving away? How interesting.
It was three years ago that Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator of Canada, a federally funded watchdog of our prisons, said the program should be "immediately rescinded." Maybe three years wasn't enough notice for Corrections Canada.
It was seventeen years ago that former Supreme Court of Canada Judge Louise Arbour, in an inquiry into events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ont., said that extended periods of segregation of eight or nine months were "seriously harmful" and that the nature of indefinite segregation was "objectionable". Is seventeen years enough notice to begin the process of "moving away" from indefinite segregation?
How is it that it is only now, when faced by litigation from Ms. Worm, a lawsuit started from prison against enormous odds and in the face of daily threats to her sanity and humanity, that Corrections Canada is "moving away" from this program?
It has often been argued that the treatment of prisoners is the greatest test of the level of civilization of a society. One can only hope, for we Canadians, that this is not the standard by which we will be judged, for we will fail.
How would we explain to visiting human rights investigators measuring the civility of our society that, well, yes, all of the women we keep for years in indefinite segregation are aboriginal, but that's just a coincidence? How would we explain that the very mental health state created by extended segregation undermines any possibility of a person working her way out of segregation? That segregation makes you crazy, and crazy people don't get out of segregation? How can we tolerate a program in Canada that actually makes prisoners worse people, not better people?
Hopefully, Corrections Canada will do more than "move away" from Management Protocol. Hopefully they will cancel the program immediately, apologize for their negligence, and do their best to rehabilitate the aboriginal women who have been subjected to it.