Mental health in prisons

November 30, 2012

Huffington Post (Canada): Dyanoosh Youssefi

Should the mentally ill be put in jail?  Say one thing, do the opposite. That sums up the Canadian government’s approach to the treatment of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.  “(I)ndividuals with mental health issues do not belong in prisons but rather in professional health facilities.” Those were the promising words of the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, in the House of Commons on Thursday, November 8, 2012. He made this sweeping and dramatic claim in the wake of the release of the Ashley Smith videos, which portrayed her horrendous and inhumane treatment while she was in custody.

National Post, Full Comment: Barbara Kay
Punishing the criminal, treating the addict

In his latest Saturday column, Conrad Black wrote: “Let us abolish imprisonment for all non-violent offences except the briefest periods, the most egregious offences, or the chronic recidivists. Instead of building more prisons, let us focus on community service and rehabilitation for the non-violent.… Prison is futile and destructive and hideously expensive, and is done only because it has always been done.”

Mr. Black is hardly the only prominent Canadian advocating such reforms. Another is former Ontario attorney-general Michael Bryant, who writes on this subject in his new book, 28 Seconds…But the book’s more lasting significance, one Lord Black is particularly well-placed to understand, lies in Bryant’s passage from a privileged man’s complacent faith in the justice system to a hounded man’s contempt for its failings. In Bryant’s case, his clash with the justice system joined with his triumph over alcoholism to illuminate the symbiosis of addiction and the justice system.

CTV News:  Lisa Rossington
Tougher rules for mentally ill offenders expected in 2013

Proposed changes to the criminal code would make it more difficult for mentally ill offenders who are found not criminally responsible to be released from custody.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Thursday that he will introduce a new bill early next year that would make public safety the central factor when determining when to release an offender, but did not give specific details. ( 2 minute video report; also 6 minute 34 seconds interview with a forensic psychiatrist)

Star Phoenix (SK)
Criminal justice needs balance

While people who have been considered too mentally disturbed to be responsible for criminal activities make up about one per cent of cases in the system, their crimes typically are so bizarre they receive disproportionate attention. But they also typically cause disproportionate pain in the victims and fear in the community. Michael McCubbin
Reasonable doubt: What do we do about mental illness?

On November 20, the CBC broke a story about escaped patients and assaults on staff at Colony Farms, a forensic psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam B.C. That facility treats some 190 persons with mental illness who have been found “not criminally responsible” for their crimes by reason of a mental disorder.

Ottawa Citizen: Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun
Ottawa to address safety concerns about releasing mentally ill offenders

B.C. had called on the federal government to eliminate annual reviews for such killers as Allan Schoenborn, who killed his three children in Merritt in 2008. The federal government plans to address concerns about the release of high-risk people found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.

Juvenile Justice Blogger John Lash (US)
Recognizing the invisible threads connecting us all

“One basis of restorative justice is the recognition of the web of interconnectedness that we exist in. This is not a metaphysical abstraction, but an accurate description of reality. One of the reasons restorative programs have been so effective is this holistic view. Solutions to the problems of justice cannot exist in isolation from other elements.”  or at Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP)
Talks on starting Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) in Burmuda

Bermuda’s justice system is due for change in its approach to cases of sexual abuse, according to children’s welfare campaigner Sheelagh Cooper.  In a bid to transform the way Bermuda treats its most dangerous criminal offenders, Ms Cooper has joined forces with the Women’s Resource Centre to bring restorative justice experts to the Island. 

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