location: publications / books / Prisoners of Isolation: Solitary Confinement in Canada / Preface / Introduction

However, the full significance of McCann v. The Queen can only be understood by considering not only the events that took place in the 1970s but also those that occurred in the 1770s, the years that saw the beginning of the modern penitentiary and the introduction of solitary confinement in the name of reform. My purposes in reviewing this history are to lend insight into the present practice of solitary confinement in the Canadian penitentiary and to aid in understanding the paradoxes with which the prison presents us. It is because of my conviction that those concerned with the law must confront the serious questions involved in the legitimacy of the state's carceral power that I have used the McCann case not only to examine the ideological assumptions that gave rise to the penitentiary system, but also to consider the crucial question of the roles of the law, the courts, and lawyers within the prison walls.

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