Certain Rights

As a mental health advocate, I am pleased to see acknowledgement of the need for change in how mentally ill offenders are cared for. If the Correctional Service of Canada were setting broken bones the nation would scratch its head. When they administer to mental illness we seem not to be alarmed. Psychiatry is a specialization of medicine. People who are mentally ill need to see mental health professionals not Correctional Officers.

While severely mentally ill in jail I experienced the correctional response of solitary confinement. I was not prescribed this by a psychiatrist but summoned by a Deputy Superintendent. When prison officials are making decisions that exasperate mental illness we can only hope the reins are taken from them.

When a person looks at mental health statistics I would think polls would be positive for any government intervention that made mental health a priority. This government has the ability to fight stigma by taking action. Possibly they are already behind the blueprints of solution. A dragging of feet can only indicate this government does not take mental health seriously. Procrastination will be stigma itself.

When we reflect on mentally ill offenders it can only be fair to consider the mental illness as much as the offence. The line of the law is crossed by the sons and daughters of a nation. They are citizens without certain rights but they are still citizens with certain rights. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms tell me a government must not discriminate on the grounds of mental disability in its laws or programs. Providing prompt and proper healthcare to physical illnesses while providing solitary confinement to mental illness seems discriminatory.

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