Lucie Lemonde, Professor, Department of Legal Sciences, UQAM, will host this conference.
The movement for the recognition of the rights of people in custody began in the mid-70s. After abandoning the so-called hands off position, courts declared that people in custody still held their rights as citizens and that the rule of law must prevail within these establishments. Legal gains as concerns, namely, the respect of fundamental justice principles by disciplinary courts and parole boards, have been progressively integrated in law and practice.
The repressive approach towards criminal matters adopted by Stephen Harper’s conservative government, based on an ideology that values law and order (“tough on crime”), has deeply disrupted the correctional philosophy and the guiding principles of the prison system that had been elaborated during the previous decades. Within a few years, we have gone from a principle of respect for human dignity and for the constitutional rights of persons in custody to a policy of tougher sentencing and a new paradigm of “basic rights”. Beyond this minimum, people in custody only benefit from discretionary privileges depending on their good behaviour and participation in programs.
The main impact of this punitive turn is an increase in incarceration rates. Prison overpopulation, then, leads to dramatic consequences for the detention conditions of people in custody. The regular recourse to cell isolation, due to a lack of staff or to the insufficient amount of resources specialized in mental health, constitutes the central contemporary problem in penitentiaries and prisons.