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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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