Stigma is a reality. I cannot change the attitudes and actions of others in society but I can protest when my government perpetrates and condones stigma and discrimination to the highest degree.
There have been a variety of problems at the provincial jail within the city of London, Ontario, CANADA. There have been a series of severe beatings and a homicide. An inquest into the death of a charged but not convicted shoplifter has given rise to recommendations that are being blatantly ignored by the government and its institutions.
Just because someone’s actions fall outside of the law does not mean they should not be protected by the law. Consider for a moment that many who find themselves in jail have lives of disadvantage. Does anyone deserve to be beaten and bullied for their food? We wouldn’t tolerate this anywhere but in jail. We have agreed and turned into law basic human rights. We shake our heads at countries who torture their prisoners when we need to pull ours from our asses and consider the fact that we condone the same here. Our governments try to find as much distance from these events as possible while they rest their heads contently on pillows of inaction in their homeland.
A certain judge’s comments were recently reported in the media. In his remarks to a Young Offender he outlined some of the treatment he could expect when he finds himself on the other side of the law as an adult. He mentioned that his proximity to adolescence would render him a victim to any of the larger inmates. What I found more disturbing was his warning that if he was on psychiatric medication he could expect to be punched in the stomach until he vomited them up for others to use. Judges don’t visit jails but we can assume his comments are based on fact.
When we are talking about people using psychiatric medications we are talking about individuals with mental illness. We are talking about vulnerable individuals at least and possibly individuals with a disability. Would we flip to the sports section as fast if it was reported that people in wheelchairs were being assaulted into giving up their assistive devices? If you have ever wondered what stigma is and how it leads to discrimination this should be illustrative enough. Our elected officials and many civil servants seem not to find outrage in this. Sadder still is that many in society are even less alarmed.
There is one main difference between those with physical impairments and those with mental impairments. One is bathed in stigma and discrimination while the other is usually accepted and understood. Understand this! To be looked down on and to be left uncared for as the result of impairment is like pissing on coffins; only assholes do it!
This government’s insistence that it is the wish of the majority to cut back on social programs and expand the incarceration system is only a screen for the fact that one entails a profit. We are morally bankrupt if we accept this. We are all guilty. We are guilty of complacency when we should be outraged.
If the government’s response to “decreasing” crime rates is to institute mandatory minimums, we should hold some for them. Shouldn’t it be a mandatory minimum of government to ensure basic human rights and protections for anyone despite their legal situation? Shouldn’t it be a mandatory minimum to protect and care for the mentally ill regardless of their residence? There are some who find themselves on the wrong side of the law because they are on the wrong side of proper mental health care. Jails are overcrowded because we find more value as a society in punishment than in treatment.
If we condone through inaction and accept the corporal punishment being perpetrated in our jails we need to legislate it. If this is acceptable let’s not be hypocritical. Make a law for the world to see the conditions we as a society accept for anyone in trouble with the law. We talk out of the side of our mouth and espouse democracy and human rights while the other side is silent when they are denied.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.