“Ashley Smith inquest sparks federal project for mentally ill inmates.”

In response to Ashley Smith’s homicide at the hands of correctional staff the federal government has unveiled two beds for women in a provincial treatment centre as a pilot project.
Did we actually need an inquest to inform us that severe mental illness needs treatment beyond which corrections is presently able to provide?
I cringe at the image of Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney cutting a ribbon or standing beside some version of an action plan sign. It is a little like being informed that a number of the inmates need razors and giving them two. I failed Grade 9 mathematics but I have seen a variety of statistics for the prevalence of mental illness among female offenders and it appears the abacus that the government is using may need some recalibration.
If we were talking about diabetes would they order two syringes? The abilities of corrections have been proven to be deadly but we are evacuating two for now. I thought we learned the lesson with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Number of passengers equals number of lifeboats.
I guess for these mentally fit politicians, coming up with a game plan by December is progress. It is a shame and the negligence and indifference are almost equal to the stupidity.
For how long have we known that mental health care needs to be carried out by clinicians? I can’t think back to a time when correctional officers and correctional facilities were the model for mental health care.
This government is prancing around showing us their commitment to mental health services for inmates at the same time they are denying it. Men and women are housed in segregation as a response to mental health needs. We need to drain the pool and the government shows up with a rubber dinghy. The issue is serious enough that it requires action rather than a show of concern.
Two beds only for women confuses me. Severe mental illness is found in both men and women. To allocate resources to one sex is a failing at best and a discriminatory display of less than a basic understanding of mental illness.
People who have no mental illness to contend with would find segregation alarming in a matter of days if not hours but politicians grin with glee at announcing an action plan by December.
How many women and men will still be administered their mental health services by a correctional service.
Do you really need to consult with stakeholders to find a response and action plan? The stakeholders are in solitary confinement. This government already knows solitary confinement is torture. They need to recognize that mental health care is health care. It needs to be considered a health care issue as much as a security issue.
If I suffered a severe physical illness the image of correctional surgeons would seem alarming.
The use of solitary confinement on anyone can inflict permanent psychological injury. To use it on the mentally ill is probably more harmful, depending on their symptoms. Seclusion denies a person the psychological benefits of movement, and visual or auditory stimulation. The need for human contact and interaction is fractured at best. Seeing a hand or face through a food slot may worsen symptoms. I would also add that it is internally disorienting to be exposed to 24 hour light. The use of light in various forms can be used to torture an individual. To my knowledge there is no medical literature supporting the use of constant light to treat or rehabilitate mental illness of any sort or severity.
Prisoners with severe mental illness are subjected to correctional measures so why isn’t the correctional model used in hospitals? Would we use diluted chemotherapy on them? Something less?
As I write this, individuals with mental illness are in solitary confinement. We can punish them for their sins but should we torture them in their illness? The use of solitary confinement as an acceptable standard for the treatment of mental health is a form of torture, exacerbates mental illness and often causes deterioration of the mental health of a segment of society that is under the care of our government.
It is incumbent on government; a duty, to provide the necessities of life including mental health care, as prisoners are in conditions which make them incapable. The duty to provide the necessities of life is essential when a prisoner is further incapacitated by illness.
This government has not and is not performing their duty. Instead they are openly presenting a systemic institutionalization of stigma through laws and services. Under the Charter these are acts of discrimination.
I call on the government to provide the necessities of life; treatment, to any citizen who is in need of what we refer to as mental health services but which under the charter must be acted upon as though it is and can only be recognized as healthcare.
To continue with the use of solitary confinement and the denial of mental health care is negligence. We do not have to prove a government’s intent regarding negligence as by law it is enough that they have shown their indifference.

 

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