The two categories of non-punitive dissociation carried out under the
authorization of this section are known as 'administrative segregation'
and 'protective custody.' The latter category, as its name implies, is
designed to protect the safety of the prisoner, and can be (and often
is) applied for by the prisoner himself. Protective custody encompasses
many sex offenders, informers, or other prisoners who run into trouble
while in the general prison population and whose presence in the population
is a threat to their own safety.
The number of prisoners in protective custody has escalated in the last
ten years. The problems faced by men in protective custody are very real.
However, in 90 per cent of the cases it is the prisoner himself who requests
his dissociation from the general population. Moreover, those in protective
custody are regarded by the penitentiary authorities as a distinct subpopulation
and, generally speaking, are permitted to associate with each other in
a separate part of the prison and, more recently, in special institutions
designated for protective-custody cases. For these reasons I will not
be focusing on the problems faced by these men.8
My focus is on the other category of dissociation authorized by section
2.30(1)(a), administrative segregation. The section authorizes the institutional
head to dissociate a prisoner 'for the maintenance of good order and discipline
in the institution,' and confers on the warden of a penitentiary a virtually
untrammelled discretion over the lives of prisoners. For those prisoners
who become the objects of its exercise it has given rise to a disciplinary
regime which, while euphemistically termed 'administrative segregation,'
represents a no less tyrannous regime than that which was so clearly condemned
by the Brown Commission in 1850. It is a regime which in its continuation
of solitary confinement harks back to the origins of the penitentiary
and yet which, as it is practised, falsifies and adulterates every one
of the principles John Howard espoused.
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