B.C Inmate Tells Court About Harrowing Experience in Solitary Confinement

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week we blogged about a trial that began at the B.C Supreme Court, reviewing the legality of Canada’s use of solitary confinement. The trial continues this week with testimony from inmates, including one inmate who told the court that he “felt like dying” while in solitary.

Testimony Begins

In 2015, the B.C Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada jointly sued the federal government over the use of solitary confinement (often referred to as “administrative segregation”).

James Lee Busch, a prisoner at B.C’s Mission Institution, is one of six inmates expected to take part in the trial and testify about their experience with solitary confinement.

Mr. Busch stated that he has been in solitary confinement eight times: three times while serving a sentence for aggravated sexual assault, and five times since he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2010. Mr. Busch testified that he has spent nearly all of his adult life in prison, on probation, or on parole, and still struggles with his experiences in solitary.

His longest stay in solitary was 66 days, when he was at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in 2009. He was placed in solitary for passing a guard a note inviting her to call him once he was released and cursing a psychologist who wanted to prescribe him psychotropic medication (which he has had negative experiences with in the past).

Suicidal Feelings in Solitary

Mr. Busch’s 66-day period of solitary confinement began in October 2009, during which time he would spend 23 hours a day in a small cell. Almost immediately, Mr. Busch said he felt depressed, and that suicidal feelings began “almost as soon as the door of the cell closed behind [him]”. Prior to entering solitary, Mr. Busch had been taking high-school equivalency courses and was close to nearly graduating. While he was in solitary, he could not attend classes, and eventually lost motivation.

Mr. Busch’s segregation was reviewed four times during the period he was there, but it was not made clear how he was a threat to the institution. During his second review, Mr. Busch says he asked to be returned to the general population, as he knew that his mental state was deteriorating. His request was not granted.

During his third review, which occurred on Day 54 of the solitary confinement, Mr. Busch says he told the reviewers that he “felt like dying”. Mr. Busch further said that once he agreed to take the psychotropic medication that was originally prescribed to him, he was released into general population. He believes that his stay in solitary confinement was used to “coerce” him into taking the medication.

Mr. Busch testified that:

“I know that I have committed crimes and that I deserve to be punished for them. But, I am still part of this Canadian community and I do not believe that any Canadian deserves to suffer the consequences of segregation”

We’ve blogged regularly about prison conditions in Canada. We will continue to follow developments in this trial as it unfolds, and will provide updates as they become available.

The Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled team has extensive experience defending a wide range of criminal charges. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation