The London Free Press has undermined their standing to mount a legal challenge to a bona fide publication ban and have castrated themselves of being a fair voice.

“Keeping in mind her safety. The Free Press never identified her during this week’s trial, even though there wasn’t a court-ordered publication ban.” Free Press

My father was a newspaper editor. He told me once that he often had mothers plead with him to keep Johnny’s name out of the newspaper; specifically the court reporting. My father knew all these people personally as it was a small community. It must have been difficult but he had the integrity to follow ethical and unequivocal news standards. He published my ex-wife’s name when she plead guilty to assault and he would have published mine had he been alive. It was an unenviable position but in some ways it was the easier avenue for my father. If he omitted Johnny’s name he would have to do so for others. The criteria would become chaotic. What would you use as a guide? Do I publish some, a few or just you?
What protocol was followed or not followed in the case of keeping secret the identities of those involved in this case? If the court did not proclaim any issues of safety, who revealed or how were they fashioned by the Free Press? There are rules to publication bans and I think Londoners should be informed of the Free Press instances and exclusions. Is it willy nilly? Does the court reporter throw a coin in the air and call heads? Should I contact the sports editor to find out what the exclusions are? If the court found no legal or so called safety issue and therefore imposed no publication ban what grounds did the London Free Press have? Who advised the Free Press that safety was an issue?
The first day this woman’s identity was unfoundedly protected the London Free Press coverage became prejudiced. It is difficult to protect a victim without creating an offender. It can only be inferred that the Free Press assumed the accused to be guilty prior to him being officially found or in this case claiming to be so. At the point of secrecy both individuals were only alleged.

The London Free Press and or Sun Media have undermined their standing to mount a legal challenge to a bona fide publication ban. They have castrated themselves of being a voice for the community and seem to have an agenda and or are influenced by certain agencies and individuals.
“Keeping in mind safety,” will the Free Press also refrain from revealing identities in other cases? What are the parameters? Who provides the litmus? Is it to be reserved only for alleged victims or will the accused also at times be protected? There are verdicts of not guilty. Will the London Free Press protect an alleged offender? The revelation of their identity creates conditions which are unsafe for them and their families. Some people are only ever accused. What about the accused who will never be found guilty? What about individuals who are Not Criminally Responsible? It is difficult to argue that Vincent Li who killed Tim McLean wouldn’t be safer if his identity was protected.
If find it frightening that the Free Press has taken it upon themselves to identify those worthy of anonymity for safety or any reason outside of a court decision. It flies in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the presumption of innocence.
http://www.lfpress.com/2015/10/07/husbands-surprise-plea-ends-london-attempted-murder-trial

Ontario Provincial Police Detachment Commander’s Conference: excerpt from my presentation

Some would say you have too much time on your hands when you’re in the Hole, for those of you who aren’t accustomed to the lingo – solitary confinement. Usually this isn’t dangerous but rather an additional punishment in a complex system of punitive treatment. For me in early May of 2004 it was a launch pad for lunacy.

My thinking began fairly simply and I would say both then and now logically. When I was on the regular Range, an old retired teacher slept in the next cell. Each night at 20:00 hours they brought my medications and then would waken this soul to give him his usual sleep medications.

My master plan was to escape from the Hole. This would occupy some of my idle time. The Hole is about five by eight feet with solid concrete walls and has a solid steel door. The door has two four inch square windows for observation and a flop down opening through which food is passed. Escape by physical means is not a possibility. That leaves two other exits. The first is to escape the reality of the Hole in your imagination. The second is to devise a complex plan whereby the system itself rescues you from the monotony. I spent several days imagining except everything I imagined was reality to me. The C.I.A. were really monitoring me, my toilet was bugged, the Pope was in the basement following my every move, my thoughts were being broadcast throughout the jail and courthouse etcetera.

After becoming bored with my physical surroundings in a bizarre reality I devised a simple and at the same time innocent plan to depart from Hole number six. I decided I would pretend to be asleep when they came by with my evening medications, I assumed they would try to waken me like my teacher friend. The logical outcome that I foresaw was that I would be taken to the nurse’s station for observation or assessment. My hope was to jump awake in the nurse’s office and proclaim to be Harry Houdini The Second as I had just escaped from the Hole in my sleep. That madness wasn’t to be. Things quickly went in directions I couldn’t possibly have hoped for.

Firstly, during my feigned sleep they came to offer me back my mattress. There are no clocks or watches in jail let alone the Hole so my timing was off. I had been removed from the medical cells for screaming in the night as I was saving the world and was there for “administrative segregation” rather than for punitive measures but I still lost my mattress, pillow and sheets during the day. They may have been successful in preventing me from sleeping during the day but be damned if I didn’t retain the right to pretend sleep!

After the guards screamed my name several times, they came in and physically tried to waken me. I remember hearing the nurse’s voice, she proceeded to check my pulse and blood pressure. I was able to discern from her voice and information she gave to the fire department, who were now present, that my pulse was erratic. She was calling me Mr. Batten so I knew she was frightened. At the same time the fire department response was reminding me of my calls to the Fire Marshall’s office weeks earlier to have the jail updated regarding inspections.

They lifted my limbs and tried to look into my eyes.I was twitching different parts of my body while everything else was relaxed. They lifted me into a chair as I was concentrating on twitching and relaxing. On the way through the doorway they slammed my foot into the jam. It didn’t break and I didn’t flinch. I took the cue that they weren’t as concerned about my well being as they were about my security and “flight” risk. I realized where I was when they tipped the chair forward at the top of the stair well and in my relaxed state I began to fall out of the chair. I was pushed back at the last second but they continued to test me as I’m sure they were not convinced I was having seizures.

Near the top of the stairs I heard the one of the female emergency responders say I held the breathing tube down my throat for ten seconds and that I was no doubt a popular person around the jail. Everyone broke out in laughter. The humour wasn’t lost on me but I did not crack a smile.

Once they had me outside I was greeted with a breath of fresh evening air. I wanted to open my eyes, to see the stars, but I have a feeling I would have seen a police officer first. They said to me “O.K. Mr. Batten we’re outside, do you feel better?” I hadn’t been given the signal from God to stop or change course so into the ambulance I was placed. It was nice to be on a soft bed, nicer than the mattress I was offered at the jail.

I have a feeling I was shackled around this time. They put something down my throat again to create an airway. My airway was larger without the apparatus. I choked continuously for at least two minutes all the while twitching and remaining relaxed. My secret was to try to concentrate on one thing at a time. While choking on this airway, it wore on my throat and started to mix with my air and saliva. I began frothing blood and the ambulance turned on the sirens and I could feel the acceleration. For all I know they could have been circling the jail trying to outsmart me. They didn’t realize I had complete and total faith in God.

Once in the emergency room I could hear one of the guards misinforming the nurses and or doctors. One guard said I had just come off a range and could have been into some drugs. He also said I had been acting strangely for several days which though plausible didn’t say much for their treatment of me.

They warned me several times about the catheter, it sounded more like threats. I was more reluctant than my peaceful appearance. I had a catheter removed following a suicide attempt. I let out a small yelp at that time and I assumed going in would not be much better. The catheter didn’t provide a drop of urine. “Ohh” was their response. I could feel and hear them moving about. “He didn’t flinch,” said a female voice. I would later bleed as a result of that catherization.

After some blood work, they pulled the intravenous from my left arm and the blood shot across my chest, some things were working. They pinched the inside of my left arm and left a bruise, no response. They kept trying to examine my eyes, I fought it and they kept saying he’s faking he’s faking. Off I went to the psychiatric unit.

A while after I was directed to wake up, I was interviewed by a psychiatrist. He started asking the usual questions. I was cognizant of time and place, I knew the date. The sad part for me was that I had to yell at him to bring him down a notch with his condescending questions. I was an important figure, I was followed by religious leaders, the CIA, etcetera. They maybe thought I was delusional but that would have to be assessed and investigated to prove me wrong. The doctor was a sceptic without sufficient reason as far as I was concerned. As he left my room I screamed through my door to the nurses’ station which was out of sight. I assumed he was there taking notes. “Do you give out drug samples to your patients?” “Do you have a pharmaceutical license to dispense medication in Ontario?”

I think they were interested in me while I was meek and gentle, swaying with the end of the world. If I lay on my pillow, the world would end. Awake, I would finally see my children.

I’m not sure what the doctor wrote about me. He must have declared me sane enough to go back to jail because that was where I was heading. For some reason the system found me fit enough for confinement once again. I was placed in the medical cells where you get a mattress 24/7. I was behind bars but I had indeed escaped from the Hole.

Dear Mr. MacKay, I was surprised that when I spoke to you at the Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness and Mental Health Gala that you did not inquire into my access-ability requirements.

I feel terrible. The Honourable Minister of Justice Peter MacKay is leaving his post. He’s been urinating on the Charter for a while now and I was wondering how long he could keep it up. I guess he’s finally petered out which I’m sure is a relief. Maybe not to the prime minster who is nothing more than Reform without Peter.

If I thought Peter MacKay would resign I would have written to him sooner. I only wanted to invite him to my home but he has taken it as the gauntlet being thrown. I hate to say it but for someone so athletic looking I would have thought Peter had more game. I did admonish him which may have been unwelcoming but having no regard for a segment of society who are in conflict as a direct result of a mental illness is not a slight I can pretend to ignore.

I actually thought Peter may have visited me so he resigning is quite a shock. Does anyone know how long cucumber sandwiches last? I guess someone should step aside. We are allowing serious human rights violations to be inflicted on the mentally ill. When I looked into my crystal ball/stainless steel toilet sink combination I saw more orange than justice ministers resigning at my feet. I wasn’t even aware that it was an injustice to be psychotic in the confines of solitary confinement.

I did not mean to scare Peter MacKay into resigning. I only wanted to point out his mistake in the hope of pointing out more mistakes. It would have simply been tea with a detainee but in a way he has done the right thing by stepping down. I feel somewhat responsible but he made his own mistakes. I would have reasoned with him and found a way around all of this but some crown attorneys see only one scenario. It can be overlooked as a job description for a crown attorney but when you continue on that path as a Justice Minister you become a knob. Peter MacKay became a thing Stephen Harper turned to key up for election. When it comes to justice and sadly Peter MacKay this government always did what looked good and seldom what was good.

I’m not an optimist but I have dreams. I will be awake at night imagining the course of withdrawing my extended hand to the prime minister. Possibly he too will not see me coming. I certainly did not see this coming. I don’t know who to aim for next but this is sure a lot of fun. Good bye Peter.


May 12, 2015

Dear Mr. MacKay,

I was surprised that when I spoke to you at the Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness and Mental Health Gala that you did not inquire into my access-ability requirements. Some disabilities are invisible and I assumed at such an event you would have been more careful. I mentioned to you that I had lived in solitary confinement and that I was found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of a Mental Disorder. But you handed me a business card without asking if I had any requirements of assistance. It would have been most helpful to have you contact me.

As one of few who speak about the issue of Not Criminally Responsible having experienced it as living flesh I am dismayed that my voice has not been heard by this government. I submitted a Brief to this government regarding Bill C-54 which post prorogue became Bill C-14. I spoke with government employees and tried to access my own Member of Parliament but I was never asked if I had any accessibility requirements. I’m somewhat uncomfortable with sharing my medical information with a receptionist and I had to enlist assistance from individuals not employed by the government in attempting to communicate with the government.

I am pleased you are coming to London and will take you up on your offer to see me. I would like the opportunity to show you that solitary confinement can damage an individual. Mental illness in the correctional system is a complicated issue. I understand corrections is not your portfolio but in reading your statement on solitary confinement and thanks to your offer to speak with me I’m sure you could understand and convey to those better versed what you will learn.

Since language is no more than incomplete shorthand I will be able to convey more in person. As such I would like to invite you to my home. I am slightly agoraphobic and it would be helpful to have access to my writings to impart on you what I know. I have firsthand knowledge of corrections and the forensic system from the position of inmate and patient while living with serious and persistent mental illness. I know you believe that there are no adverse effects to Administrative Segregation but I have proof. Some of this evidence is within me, some of it is written and some of it is in how I live.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to set up a meeting.

Kind regards,
Brett Charles Batten

I had a meeting with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay

I was sitting at an elegant table in the elegant Shaw Centre in Ottawa. We were gathered for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health Champions of Mental Health Awards. The Parliament Buildings were to my right as was my beautiful wife and I was simply minding my own business. A senator who didn’t look anything like Mike Duffy came round the table and gave me his business card. I smiled and gave him mine.

I noticed the Minister of Justice Peter MacKay schmoozing and posing for photographs like some redundant rock star. He seemed pleased with himself. Without warning I rose to my feet and went and stood behind him as he was speaking to a groupie. I glanced back at my wife and she had the same worried look on her face as the day I proposed to her. I gave her a wink and she started shoving dinner rolls in her purse in case we were turfed before the taters.

“Hi Mr. MacKay, my name is Brett Batten and I’m an advocate. I don’t know if you’ve ever met anyone who has lived in solitary confinement but I have spent some time there.” “In fact I have” was his response. I wondered if they too were wearing a suit and tie at the time but my immediate thought was to recall ‘Bobby the Bullshitter’ who lived around the corner when I was seven. “We’re going to Disneyland.” “I’ve been to Disneyland twelve times.” I detoured the exasperation and mentioned that I would like to discuss the issue of solitary confinement with him sometime.

“Well, that’s the portfolio of Public Safety and my portfolio is Justice.” I wasn’t sure who thought who was stupid. “I understand that but as the Attorney General you have made statements regarding solitary confinement which are misleading.” “I don’t believe I have, what did I say?” I looked around for a second as I thought we were suddenly in the House of Commons. “You said Administrative Segregation was not similar to solitary confinement in other countries.” “Well, solitary confinement in Sarajevo is different from what we find in Canada.” “Well, we are not talking about dirt floors but the dimensions and more are quite the same sir. The United Nations defines solitary confinement as any incarceration that confines a person to a cell for 22 hours a day or more without human contact.” “Well I don’t always agree with the United Nations.” (Especially when it contradicts ‘the agenda’.) “Solitary confinement is used for sex offenders to ensure their safety.” “It is predominantly used for individuals with mental illness; it is a default response to a health issue.” For someone who didn’t say anything about solitary confinement Peter seemed to hit on all the points he made in his official statement.

I decided to give him the benefit of my doubt and asked who I could speak to about the issue. “You can talk to me” and he handed me his business card asking for mine. “Where are you from?” “London!” “I’m going to be in London in a week or two, maybe we can meet.”

“I was found Not Criminally Responsible and was the individual Champion of Mental Health here last year. Pretty much in that order.” He looked surprised and at the time I wasn’t sure at which. Maybe for a minute he thought ‘Wow, I could have actually spoken to someone found Not Criminally Responsible before I shoved the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act through Parliament.’ Nothing may come of this but at least Peter MacKay can say he shook the hand of someone found Not Criminally Responsible. Good on him!

It all sounds hopeful with him coming to London for Tea and Crumpets but like the rest of the electorate I expect his political promise to be broken. It was a formal event and I’m sure he was trying to appease me but I did drive all night to get home and vacuum in case he visits. He has my business card so I hope he enjoys my Blog.

As a public service Peter MacKay’s phone number is (613) 992-4621. Just tell him Brett gave you his number.

P.S. Please don’t call me at home, I’m expecting an important call.

Attorney-General MacKay wants us to believe solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Canada because he calls it ‘administrative segregation’. BS!

The use of solitary confinement and acceptable standards for the treatment of mental health in corrections is a form of torture as it exacerbates and often deteriorates the mental health of a segment of society that is marginalized, compromised, and vulnerable to abuse and in many cases clearly disabled. Solitary confinement deteriorates the mental wellness of anyone.

The use of solitary confinement can inflict permanent psychological injury. To use it on individuals with mental illness is more harmful, depending on their symptoms. ‘Administrative segregation’ 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. It is also 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.

When I was in solitary confinement I lost the sense of time in part due to 24 hour light. For me 15 minutes was exactly the same as 2 hours which was identical to 12 seconds. What reality was I to build without the cornerstone of time? At times I confused night with day. The denial of a sense of day or night affected my sleep which worsened my condition. Sleep interacts with several neurotransmitters which also have an effect on memory, emotions, moods and appetite. Solitary confinement causes a disruption in circadian rhythms and affects dopamine which is linked to schizophrenia and serotonin which is linked to depression, anger, OCD, sleep disturbances and many other emotional and physical disturbances.

To place someone in solitary confinement who is struggling with reality is like taking the half dead goldfish out of the bowl to revive it.

This government would not allow corrections to worsen the physical health of an inmate but we allow them to worsen the mental health of inmates. Mental health in corrections or around the corner is a health issue. Being involved in the justice system does not in any way mean the government or any individual has the right to withhold proper and humane health care. Mental health is health care. If I suffered a severe physical illness the image of correctional surgeons would seem alarming.

Even in corrections the necessaries of life are a societal standard. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner’s Policy Objective Regarding Health Services is:

1. To ensure that inmates have access to essential medical, dental and mental health services in keeping with generally accepted community practices. Inmates with severe mental illness are subjected to ‘administrative segregation’ so why do we not see it used as an “accepted community practice?”

It is incumbent on government; a duty, to provide the necessaries of life including mental health care, as inmates are in conditions which make them incapable. The duty to provide the necessaries of life is essential when an inmate 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. The government is legally bound to provide the necessaries of life; treatment, to any inmate 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 health care. To continue with the use of solitary confinement and the denial of mental health care is negligence.

When an inmate is incarcerated, health care becomes the responsibility of the government. Individuals in jails and prisons are neutered of any capability to seek out or enlist assistance. In dealing with individuals with mental health concerns, availing oneself of health care is often not within the capabilities of the inmate as symptoms often further reduce an inmate’s ability to vocalize and enlist assistance. If an individual is incapable of insight into their illness they are also incapable of being proactive with regards to their health. It then becomes imperative for the authorities to institute conditions and opportunities to address the needs of the inmate.

Attorney-General Peter MacKay says inmates in ‘administrative segregation’ do not suffer adverse effects and that segregation in Canadian prisons is “different from and not analogous to the concept of ‘solitary confinement’ referred to in many foreign jurisdictions and should not be confused with it.”

Solitary confinement in Canada is not dirt floors or cockroaches but the dimensions and duration of confinement is essentially identical. Inmates are given food and sanitation but their toilet is table and chair. Inmates are checked regularly but there is virtually no human contact. People who have no mental illness to contend with would find segregation alarming in a matter of days if not hours but politicians speak of it like it’s a fable or fallacy.

I know that solitary confinement has many similarities regardless of latitude and longitude. It is the prolonged exposure to a small chamber often with constant light and essentially no human contact. Peter MacKay wants Canadians to believe solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Canada because the conservatives and corrections call it ‘administrative segregation’. You can paint a Toyota a hundred colours but it’s still a Toyota. It is a ridiculous ruse and epitomizes the fact that the conservatives have no “concept” of solitary confinement.

Peter MacKay uses the same distorted logic in telling Canadians ‘administrative segregation’ is not analogous or in no way comparable to solitary confinement. The United Nations refutes this notion. The United Nations defines solitary confinement as any incarceration method that restricts inmates to a cell for 22 hours a day or more “without meaningful human contact.” Canada falls into this definition easily but for some reason the government wishes to make their own parameters and use silly name games to camouflage their use of these measures. Is it a bad thing to follow the United Nations in promoting human rights or would we rather the conservatives make up our definitions? Are we a nation of conscience?

I would ask Attorney General MacKay how many solitary confinement cells he has seen in “foreign jurisdictions” and how many he has seen in Canada. What is the Dishonourable Peter MacKay’s firsthand knowledge of solitary confinement?

With regard to these “foreign jurisdictions” my first question is what are the differences? My second question is does the Canadian government consider solitary confinement as a form of torture in these “foreign jurisdictions” or is it simply foreign ‘administrative segregation’? My third question is which elements of solitary confinement in these jurisdictions are considered a form of torture and of these elements how many exist in ‘administrative segregation’ in Canada?

I can only laugh if Peter MacKay has never seen ‘administrative segregation’. I wonder if he has heard the door close behind him. Has he spent an hour there? Peter MacKay is a manipulative liar and I will call it to his face. We are all talking about the same place but the conservatives have named a bathroom Bermuda and we’re supposed to swim in the spin. Inmates refer to it as the Hole or the Digger. Corrections call it ‘administrative segregation’ and therefore conservatives tell us solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Canada. We are exposing persons with identifiable medical conditions to this contradiction of terminology. We should ask the inhabitants if it is anything but hell.

I will simply state that the conditions of ‘administrative segregation’ in Canada contains elements of torture and further that these conditions are imposed on individuals with symptoms of mental illness and in many cases for that reason alone. This policy and practice is discrimination.

We see photos of Peter MacKay and the Teflon Toupee in combat zones. It would be a great photo op with the pair of them near a solitary confinement cell. Maybe they could step on the throat of someone with an identifiable illness as they croon to the base of their vote who are excited by tough on crime policies regardless of human rights.

As far as non-existent “adverse effects” I mainly speak from personal experience but in comparison to the Attorney General Peter MacKay it is at least experience. Peter’s mother is a psychologist. Possibly she could draw him a picture of what dissociation and PTSD are. I went into solitary confinement with neither. I had never experienced them in my life. When I came out it took two years before I stopped staring. If that means nothing to Peter MacKay and his conservative agenda the shame is his mother’s.

Distancing oneself or ones government from the truth that they are not providing services in health care is understandable. I think quite simply this government wishes most not to have to compensate those who have been exposed to this form of torture. Like the residential schools they owe an apology. (Other than those in the conservative government who have spoken up against it.) It confounds me why a government would use conditions even remotely similar to what is clearly torture in other nations on individuals with a health condition or disability. I am ashamed of my nation.

As I write this, individuals with mental illness are in solitary confinement in Canada. 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 a deterioration of the mental health of a segment of society that is under the care of our government. This shame doesn’t disappear with terminology. Tomato, tomahto.

People line up to test their bodies but we flee the very thought of having to do so with our minds and emotions.

I came close to not being here a couple of times. The last and more serious time was before my since ten year struggle with justice. When I came to from my comma I was seeing perfectly clear double vision. My eyes cleared up within hours but I still keep a form of double vision.

Since I awoke that night I have survived solitary confinement, abuses, humiliations, abandonment, illness, betrayal, loss, terror, prejudice, stigma, hate, and poverty to degrees that would make them each significantly difficult on their own.

If I knew what I was going to be experiencing for over a decade I would have employed a method closer to a moving train. When I look at my experiences since my last suicide attempt I see great pain, untold sorrows and defeat after defeat. I also have the perspective to recognize the unique mixture of love and friendship that is woven into these experiences as well.

My best friend for a few years was a 330 pound forensic patient. Ed had been shot by the police in a fairly justified manner. Some people were afraid of Ed. He wasn’t pretty, sometimes smelled and had a huge voice.

Ed died about this time years ago. He was living in an apartment, practicing to get a new driver’s license and he drank coffee and smoked too much. I miss Ed but it doesn’t hurt much when I think of him these days. When I think and try to balance all the bad things that have happened with the good, I can’t. There is too much of each.

Maybe it’s like a marathon. People endure taxing the limits of their physical capabilities for a ribbon. People line up to test their bodies but we flee the very thought of having to do so with our minds and emotions. When I think of Ed he is so much more than a ribbon. I had to endure and struggle to subsequently meet many individuals. Ed was one and I am sharing the Eulogy I wrote about and for him at his memorial service:

His name is Ed and he’s my best friend. He’s been my best friend since he gave me his apple the first meal I had on the Fallen Angel Unit (Forensic Assessment Unit). At that time apples meant love and he gave me his. We didn’t say a word to each other as we ate our replica meals and I probably should have been afraid of his three hundred plus pounds but he gave me his apple. From that day on Ed has been nothing but generous to me. As I write this my belly is still full of the soup he made and shared with me in his apartment and my veins course with nicotine from the pack of cigarettes he gave me tonight. I visit Ed most days in the community. He has a small apartment and it is a great getaway for both of us. We are both weary of hospitals and nurses and cameras and crappy food and shared toilets and little or no privacy. Ed and I share more than meals, we share our experiences. We talk about what has happened to us sometimes, usually he more than me, but we share it in silence always. We sit together and know we have each been in Holes and siderooms and handcuffed and shackled, he more than me. Ed’s story spans twenty-five years; his last battle has been seven years. My whole experience with the law has only been seven years. Ed reminds me of how good I have it, literally at times.

When I was on the Fallen Angel Unit for my Assessment Ed and I would sit in the smoking room and rule. We were two that truly had our heads, or so it seemed to me, and we were both personable. Ed would give me his pouch of tobacco and let me roll cigarettes whenever I wanted. Every morning we would be the first two into the room. I would have a huge manic smile on my face waiting for him. We liked each other for some reason or maybe for no reason. I think because I don’t talk much and am fairly quiet Ed likes me. I am generous back to Ed. He has no wheels so I run the odd errand for him getting groceries or Thursday night fish and chips.

When I came to the Forensic Treatment Unit Ed would become one of my dorm mates. Ed would lie in his bed on his back and rock his head back and forth for about an hour. This was his stress reduction and I think he picked it up somewhere in his twenty odd years of incarceration. Ed was a good dorm mate; he always had food to share and a pair of shoes to sell.

I could write a whole book about Ed, he is full of stories. Ed spends his days smoking and drinking coffee and knows everything about everyone and if he doesn’t, he is not shy about asking. “Where are you going Brett?” “Where were you Brett?” What did you have for supper has to be one of his favourite questions. Sometimes I resent the invasion into my privacy as I don’t know how to be rude and say mind your own business. I also realize he doesn’t go anywhere or do anything so news is his only entertainment.

“Well you got out of here for the weekend, that’s the main thing, good for you.” Ed is always genuinely happy for me and any progress I make as far as privileges. He also gives me hell for not pushing for more. “When are you going to ask for ‘Live in the Community’ Brett?” “Soon” I answer. He says I should be out of here and we both know it is true but the system is what the system is. It is like a cold, there is no cure it just has to run its course.

Ed befriended me when I was most ill. When everyone else pulled away, Ed was my friend. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I needed anyone but I think he was. Ed didn’t look compassionate but he was. Ed lived in the present and appreciated things as simple as a cigarette, a coffee or a burger.

I have learned more about generosity from Ed than from any combination of people in my life. He really didn’t have anything but what he did have he shared. I was definitely on the receiving end of more meals and coffee’s than I was able to repay. I don’t think Ed kept track but I regret not being able to repay some of that generosity.

Ed used to call me every day. What did you have for supper Brett? Ed was a little preoccupied with food but it was one of his few pleasures. Food becomes a very important part of your life when you are incarcerated. Most days the high point of your day or a significant marker for time is a meal. To receive little or no satisfaction from that meal, undermines what little morale you can muster at times. I sometimes enjoyed telling Ed about my culinary habits when I shifted from eating out of a can to actually preparing meals. I think Ed’s cooking inspired me to do some myself. I’m glad Ed was able to eat what he liked in his final years.

Ed was an outgoing and friendly person. He knew many names and felt emotion for what he perceived were injustices in others circumstances. This is empathy. Ed was rich with friends and I was blessed to be one.

Ed seemed obstinate and defiant towards what he would deem as his oppressors, many who would say they were simply helping Ed but we don’t know exactly how Ed perceived things and it is his perception of events that coloured his actions. If a man feels truly wronged as Ed often did then it is in his right to pursue some means of remedy. Ed usually went within his rights and sought out legal avenues to remedy the wrongs he perceived. Some would argue he wasn’t always rational in these pursuits but imagine the emotion involved in defending your rights as a person. Ultimately Ed wanted autonomy, he didn’t want to be needled, literally, he wanted to be left in peace. I don’t find this to be anything but rational and it is unfortunate Ed is not here to enjoy the peace he now has. Ed has finally received his Absolute Discharge.

I have an apple for you Ed, somewhere, somehow I will get it to you.

People seem to think you are either for Tim McLean and his family or for Vincent Li. Balderdash!

I had a gentleman email me a letter regarding Tim McLean and Vincent Li. I disagree with most of what he has to say but I respect his attempt at dialogue. He took the time to express himself and was civil with me. Normally, I would dismantle his arguments and refute them each by each but I will let his letter speak for itself. He has revealed several issues that I believed underscore the hate and stigma that surround this tragedy.

I have pointed out that much of the stigma surrounding Vincent Li is ignorance. I still believe that. People are spouting their unsubstantiated opinions and are rarely attempting to become knowledgeable or informed. Some are actually using their opinions as a shield to information.

I would like to speak to one point I find personally offensive. This gentleman and others take contrary information and arguments as absolutes. Some people seem to think you are either for Tim McLean and his family or for Vincent Li. Balderdash! I attempt to explain and argue factors surrounding mental illness, Not Criminally Responsible and Mr. Li not because I do not support Tim’s mother, friends or anyone else involved in this tragedy. If Tim’s mother’s side or voice was not being heard or supported I would be bringing that to light as well. Tim’s mother has the ear of the Prime Minister and government and a nation is behind her. I include myself in this support but I speak the other side and to other issues in an attempt to provide a degree of balance. People seem to be saying there is something wrong with this picture without looking at the whole picture. A book, painting or person rarely makes sense when viewed only partially and reality is distorted when our focus is a pin point.

One person threw in my face, “what if that had been your son?” I Tweeted back and asked if they were referring to “Vincent Li or Tim McLean? We could be a parent to either.”

My son is about the age Tim was when his life so tragically ended. I cannot put myself in Tim’s mother’s shoes and I would never profess to understand or comprehend her ordeal. I can however come as close as anyone claiming anything similar. What makes me unique is that I can to a degree empathize with Tim’s mother but I can also imagine being Vincent Li or Vincent Li’s parent. If it is fair to ask me what if Tim was your son it then becomes fair to ask what if you were Vincent Li or Vincent Li’s parent? Part of the solution is for each of us to more seriously consider being Tim McLean, Tim’s family and Vincent Li and Vincent Li’s family.

After reading this man’s letter I have a softer view of some of the ignorance. For some it is not a capacity they have. I don’t think this should be an excuse to not strive but I do not think it is fair to attack.

Hey
so i just read your article in response to vince li( i don’t give him the benefit of being called a mr cause he doesn’t deserve it).
I don’t take this out of anger or me not understanding of the disease li has.You seem to be a very smart man, well written article just disagree with you and anyone else who thinks vince li should have freedom or is completely healthy, I have never argued that fact or point my argument or disagreement with is everyone is posting li the victim. He did the crime. ( not like i would know i am not a doctor or a lawyer just a everyday regular joe concerned with the worlds safety)
A rapist is a rapist ,a murderer is a murderer no matter the mind set you have to be sick to do the crime like Li he did the real victims and continues to be Tim Mclean and his family through the justice system and the health system.
The fact that any one would defend these such actions is baffling to me.These quake doctors that are releasing him and giving him more & more freedom want nothing to do with him ,won’t put him up at there own house don’t want him over for the next family dinner or have li in their community.
So with that being said lets be honest with our selfs here for a minute vince li will be completely free and be in charge of his medication one day one day very soon and what will happen that one day he forgets to take his medication and goes past a elementary school just out for recess and li hears those voices again and down kid yourself just cause he is being made to take his medication and he seem s to be doing better because he is being medically sedated with medication and being watched and monitored.
The fact that people believe he his cured and can’t compete a crime again is wrong cause this has happen once before where a guy was found criminally not responsible for killing a young woman and he was released few years later and committed another murder of 2 more.
Its not fair to justify this crime/murder by a disease poor Tim Mcleans soul will never rest
The one question i keep asking is What do we Owe to this man Vince Li? as a nation ,as other humans . What has vince Li done for Canada? he was a immigrant less than 10 years do we really owe him anything now society expects us to house him in our community near our family`s , teach him skills to get a job and to live every day life i don’t believe he deserves that the best Li deserves is either a needle to end his life ( eye for an eye) or permeant waste of life in a facility to provide him the help and care he needs since he needs to be watch and medication on a daily to operate like another human.
The best test the selkirk hospital should do is take Li off his medication while he’s still there and see what the results would be.
Thanks for listening to my thoughts & ideas i have and put out hope it opens your eyes but probably not since with this case i find you either one either side Vince Li`s or Tim Mcleans & family
Have a great day

Sincerely,

RE: Vincent Li and Tim McLean. Compassion isn’t a dart we throw it is a net we cast.

I spent the weekend battling on Twitter. I don’t often Tweet but there was much ignorance I felt compelled to refute. Vincent Li who was found Not Criminally Responsible for a very disturbing and tragic incident is in the process of being granted a progression of freedoms in his treatment and rehabilitation. It needs to be clarified that these measures will themselves be measured and monitored. It is also important to understand that Mr. Li has been assessed by several psychiatrists who are in agreement as to the status of his mental health. Most importantly the individuals who contribute information and make decisions on that information have and always will ensure that public safety is paramount. Paramount.

I am not an expert in law or medicine. I have some information about each but my specialty is what it means and feels like to be caught between the two. If you want the definition of psychosis you can ask a doctor. If you want to know what the experience is like, you can ask me. If you want to know the intricacies of Not Criminally Responsible ask a lawyer who specializes in such. If you want to know how those processes affect an individual, you can ask me. I don’t consider myself an expert by any stretch but few know what I know. My journey is far removed from what most experience and I believe that is where my use is found.

Unfortunately, people with opinions often have no desire to hear from someone who actually knows something, as it interferes with their ignorance. Opinions have value but when their basis is ignorance they become water balloons without water; completely ineffective and they go nowhere.

I heard the voices that are incensed and incredulous over the appearance of the case. In my estimation most of these individuals are using headlines for a measure and as a basis of knowledge from which to form and progress their opinions. If a person looks only at the atrocity they can only make basic conclusions.

The severity of the offence is not the indicator of recidivism. If a person stabs another twice they are not twice as likely to re-offend as the person who stabs once. It is an asinine assumption and a distortion of logic. The brutality of the offence for which an individual is found Not Criminally Responsible has no bearing on their prognosis or recovery. The absence of blood in no way determines the effectiveness of medications and the presence of blood in no way determines the efficacy of treatment and rehabilitation.

Tim McLean who is the deceased in this case is clearly a victim. He was simply a passenger on a bus. However, there is more than one victim. We have to consider the families and friends connected to all involved. We have to consider witnesses and first responders. We have to consider communities. We also need to consider Vincent Li himself. Mr. Li is a victim of a mental disorder and a victim of public backlash, stigma and hatred. He no more asked for this event than anyone involved. To be a monster to a nation as a result of an illness is a weight that must also be measured. Mr. Li did not choose his illness and he is quite likely near the front of the line of individuals who would wish the event never occurred.

People confuse psychosis with psychopathy. They are two vastly different states and it is unfortunate they are phonetically similar. It is the same as confusing dentistry with dysentery. Psychosis and hallucinations are Axis 1 disorders while psychopathy is Axis 2. Twitter was awash with words like psycho and I would direct those people to the internet to actually find out the meanings and intricacies of mental disorders. Knowledge is power and slang is pathetic and painful.

I was disappointed to uncover the extent of hatred and intolerance that exists in Canada. People seem to embrace the biblical “eye for an eye” mentality all the while ignoring the New Testament and specifically the red letters attributed to Christ. I guess it is easier to cast stones. Possibly people gain a sense of self righteousness and can forget their own faults. An “eye for an eye” does not bring peace or restore the order of the universe. The universe is unfair and unjust. Just ask a child with a distended belly in a third world nation. People seem to believe the world is just and they become quite worked up trying to make it so through mental manoeuvrings. An “eye for an eye” leaves two people blind and it only expands suffering. It is rather imbecilic to think that suffering can relieve suffering. It is also a little sadistic to find peace in anyone’s pain.

Many individuals seem to think that Vincent Li may be better but Tim McLean is still dead. My sympathies go out to all involved but Tim McLean will be dead no matter what happens to Vincent Li. There is no logic in that argument or revelation and nothing that is done will alter what happened to those involved.

People were flying off the handle saying maybe Mr. Li’s psychiatrist who assessed him should have him as a neighbour. The fact is Mr. Li was assessed by several psychiatrists who came to the same conclusions. The general public and even Members of Parliament like Shelly Glover think they should be the ones assessing and that their opinions which originate from newspapers or less are the only assessment tool needed. We need to allow those who are trained and knowledgeable care for the community and Mr. Li. Despite the brutality of the offence Mr. Li is considered low risk and has been assessed and is being monitored. Few of us could say the same thing about our neighbours. No one is immune to mental illness and it does not discriminate. To an extent we are all capable of atrocity if we become ill to the point Mr. Li was. If you disagree please point me in the direction of the magic water you swallow to prevent mental illness.

I was called a douche, a jerk, a scumbag, a murderer advocate and was told to go hang myself. All were desperate and illogical attempts to overcome the disparity of being confronted by someone found Not Criminally Responsible and who is intelligent, logical and able to disseminate information, form relatively sound opinions and coherently craft them into Tweets. I got a little saucy myself but being the Not Criminally Responsible individual in these arguments I tempered my responses. I came to the somewhat biased opinion that I would rather have me as a neighbour than these scary and somewhat unstable twits. I have been tested and proven not to be a psychopath or sociopath but these individuals cannot claim the same. I don’t much care what they Tweet from their parent’s basement but I am concerned that they interact with others in person and that they are probably allowed to obtain firearms and most terrifying; can vote.

I came to the edge of being insulting and was uneasy with where I found myself. I am one of only a few who to a degree represent individuals who have been found Not Criminally Responsible. I do so not always out of desire but more so out of duty. There are many days I wish to be more ordinary and forget what is past. I realize though that my abilities, experiences and gifts are meant to be shared. I have near total recall of most of my psychosis and as much as it is a curse to remember all of that, it is somewhat rare and it would be a loss not to explain and share with others in an attempt for us all to understand each other. I don’t have fame or popularity to promote my causes. I am involved in the unsavory aspects of mental health: Not Criminally Responsible, the Canadian Criminal Code, Board of Review hearings, courts, police and corrections. Possibly I could let some of this slide if Clara Hughes jumped in but she’s busy on her bike.

I told one individual to “say Hi to everyone on his paper route.” I felt bad that I might be misinterpreted. I have every regard for individuals who support or supplement their income from delivering periodicals. Unfortunately, the 140 characters allocated by Twitter did not allow me to explain my meaning. When I was growing up teenagers delivered newspapers and I was implying that this individual was a child in his thoughts and arguments.

I think it is fair and acceptable that I get a little saucy. I don’t believe that since I was found Not Criminally Responsible that I need to portray something meek and gentle. I am and we all are many things. Part of my point is that I am no different from anyone and I posses characteristics that many and most humans posses. In a way being sarcastic and cheeky is an exercise in illustrating my ordinariness. I grew up with three brothers so I was born and bred to stand up for myself. For years I was unable to do this as I was in jail or hospital. If I had no voice I would be skinnier than I am. I traded barbs with my brothers as an exercise of intellect and debate and it was an ingrained and somewhat socially conditioned form of love. We did not hug each other though we do now. Instead we insulted each other as a form of attention and we found affection, comradery and even respect in its often humourous arms.

The one individual who seemed quite engaged in trying to enrage me gave up when I asked him his real name. He was calling me “champ” in some attempt to belittle me and I told him “my name is Brett and I do not hide.” My full name is attached to my Twitter account. This child was Tweeting from behind his mother’s skirt and when I said to “step up or shut up” he implied that I was threatening him. I reassured him and told him he couldn’t “hide and speak” and that I simply wanted to know if he “was a mouthpiece or a man.” He did not give his name which confirmed he was in fact just a mouthpiece. He was a noise originating from the area of the head but not the brain necessarily.

People were arguing that if Mr. Li misses a dose of his medications he will buy a bus ticket and repeat his actions in some form. Medications are important but only a fraction of the treatment and rehabilitation Not Criminally Responsible individuals receive. Further, these individuals are monitored and know themselves the importance of their medications and the other aspects of their treatment and recovery. In the case of Mr. Li there are a series of supports in place and extended that were not present at the time of the offence.

People think Mr. Li should be locked up forever and worse. Punitive measures do not alter the cause of the offence when the cause is mental illness. Treatment and rehabilitation of the individual with the illness is not only humane and progressive, it is the only successful and logical approach. Mr. Anonymity was trying to argue that all criminals should be medicated and why was Mr. Li so special? Firstly, Mr. Li is not a criminal and secondly they have not discovered medications for greed, stupidity and evil. As you might conclude it was draining attempting to inform such moronity. If I had to do it again I might just walk away as many of these individuals used their opinions as a shield to information. However, some of what I was saying was getting out there and their deflection did not mean I did not reach anyone. I am also pleased that there is a lasting public record of their stupidity. Maybe eventual embarrassment will guide them towards a book.

People were using the grief of those involved as a basis and argument for their hatred, ingrained ignorance and intolerance of people and circumstances they have little basis of knowledge in. People think they are being sensitive to victims and compassionate but compassion isn’t a dart we throw it is a net we cast.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Mental Health Strategy, Ect.

I don’t often advocate for the police. They have unions and each other so I don’t view them as disadvantaged or marginalized. They are not on my radar so to speak 🙂 I usually defend those who are unable to stand up for themselves or who do not have the opportunities and advantages that I do.

In my recent encounter with Ontario Provincial Police officers I have softened and expanded some of my views. Few of us have the honour or opportunity to share a meal with the police and their humanity is nourishment itself. I don’t want to disappoint those who find me a refreshing prick with a pen but I have a few points for us all to consider.

Most people do not know that since I was a child, I dreamed of being employed in law enforcement. I know of few better examples of irony. I also have several friends from my youth who are police officers. I can name at least seven who I played high school football with. I am fairly outspoken regarding tragedies that involve mental health but do not think I would not be as upset to hear of an officer falling in the line of duty.

Many of us have an uninformed sense of what the police are like. They are the brutes who give us speeding tickets. I agree that it is an annoying pastime of theirs but they are attempting to keep their families safe as well as yours. We do not blame the baker for making us fat.

Like everyone I am influenced by the media. With the media preoccupation with the sensational we are force fed and filled with any and many officer mistakes. To make an analogy it is no different than hearing that the Toronto Maple Leafs have actually won a game and concluding that they are having a great season.

I tried digging up some real numbers to provide some perspective and fairness. There are over 26 thousand police officers in Ontario. The few we hear about as having fallen short in their duties would be statistically minute and invisible on almost any graph.

I was aware that police officers are trained and informed that a person with a knife can be lethal at a range of 15 to 20 feet. I might be spatially disabled under such conditions. Officers are trained to use lethal force in these instances. I will still argue that a greater distance should be maintained where possible and appropriate but it is comprehensible that such situations do not always work out. I would imagine that any officer who had to make a lethal decision would be haunted by such and it is understandable why officers also suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I have argued against the use of Tasers on mentally ill individuals as they are often disabled and it is a health condition. We need to guard against Tasers being used too often but in speaking with an officer I see their value. An individual with a knife who charges at a distance of 20 feet will still reach the officer even when shot with a gun. This is a no win situation. The Taser if successful will stop that same individual in their tracks. I would rather have to deal with psychological and temporary agony than find myself and or someone trying to help me in a coffin. I have a family as do they. The consequences of the lethal use of a firearm are far reaching.

We can point out that 92% of officer fatalities are committed with a firearm or that police homicides occur 23% of the time involving robberies and 3% occur apprehending psychiatric patients but I’m not sure those numbers would make me feel better if I was faced with a knife and I am unlikely to call on statistics or probabilities when I see that knife waved in my proximity. Any weapon is problematic.

I could only find numbers from Vancouver but they may still be relevant. One third of all police calls involve people with mental health issues. Let’s assume that the Ontario Provincial Police are dealing with similar numbers. I think the police have been put in a place and are being called on to remedy issues that are not theirs to own. Mental health is increasingly involving agencies that were never meant to be mental health service providers; police and corrections.

We can scream and shout at them both but the solution doesn’t entirely lay with altering what they do. We need a number other than 911 to call and we need to prevent and protect individuals from entering the justice system as a result of their addictions and mental health issues. Thirty percent of individuals come into contact with the police in their first experience trying to access mental health care. We don’t change the diaper when an infant needs to be burped.

There are agencies better suited to serve the mental health needs of Ontarians. These organizations and agencies need to be better coordinated, better funded and more accessible. To keep things as they are is monumentally more expensive fiscally and socially. We will have less need to call 911 if mental health care can be obtained prior to crisis. The police will always have a place and we need to be grateful for that. It is an unenviable position and a difficult duty. It is unfair to the police and Ontarians to make police an automatic selection for mental health issues.

I am showing my support to the Ontario Provincial Police not because I now know several more outstanding officers but because I deeply desire better outcomes for Ontarians. I will still point out problems and they may be the target of my often sharp and ill timed sense of humour but in the case of the Ontario Provincial Police and specifically the Elgin County Detachment I see compassion, promise and an active engagement in improving the mental health outcomes of Ontarians. Is the Ontario Provincial Police Mental Health Strategy perfect? Possibly not but I am inspired and I believe community stakeholders can co-operate and implement something of an improvement.

The quarterback doesn’t throw the ball because he is incompetent or incapable of making headway; he knows the receiver stands the best chance of the most advancement. Community stakeholders are the wide receivers. We have been calling the police for help with mental health matters for decades. Community stakeholders are now being called on. I believe they can handle the pass.

Ontario Hospitals Need to Give Their Head a Shake

I wonder what goes through the minds of patients who are pushed off hospital property to smoke in the cold with the public driving by.

Am I to believe I am valued as a person when certain aspects of myself are banished? It is quite like making a child stand in a corner to contemplate their unacceptable behaviour. It becomes difficult to see the love and respect for patients when they are relegated to the road and rain coping as they know how and finding pleasure and escape in a cigarette. These individuals have serious and persistent mental illness and we are worried about them smoking? Privileged individuals are instituting their values on marginalized individuals. Some will never quit so I suggest we stop shaming them.

When I was a forensic patient I really didn’t want people knowing I was such. I found it humiliating having to ride in the “big white vans” because most people in St. Thomas knew where the “big white vans” were from. They were part of the community consciousness and on more than one occasion I heard the “big white vans” used as amusing putdowns.

Privacy is a premise of dignity. When I am placed beside the road like a pathetic pylon I eventually become recognizable to repetitive travelers and commuters. This scenario makes community integration difficult and it compromises patient safety. What if a prospective employer, landlord or lover recognizes me from standing beside the road five times a day? It makes what is already difficult more so. Will I find employment or a date if I am publicly exposed as belonging in a forensic hospital? Nobody deserves a scarlet letter let alone for an unhealthy habit. Are we compromising patient confidentiality by placing these individuals beside a public thoroughfare?

At the old forensic hospital a friend and I ordered a pizza on a summer’s evening. We decided to eat it at a picnic table in front of the hospital. We were well back from the highway but a car full of fools drove by yelling obscenities at us. Not all motorists are mature or well meaning. Some motorists barely know the meaning of a STOP sign but we expect they will comprehend and be sensitive to STIGMA? Forensic patients are prone to abuse and discrimination and placing them beside a road is nothing more than facilitation. Having these individuals within distance of garbage being hurled at them is dangerous and unfair. St. Thomas is fairly accepting of Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care but it only takes one.

When I become a fixture standing at the end of the lane leading to a forensic facility I become recognizable. If and when I am allowed to wander other avenues I am still recognizable. We might as well dip these smokers in orange dye to further accommodate their prospective discrimination. These individuals are already compromised and marginalized and I find it shameful that an organization with a mandate to assist them is in fact harming them.

For Immediate Release: Documentarian John Kastner To Issue Public Apology

http://www.cbc.ca/q/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2547280251
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/forensic-psychiatric-patients-are-ill-not-evil%E2%80%94and-we-should-stop-hiding-them/article18205568/?utm_source=Shared+Article+Sent+to+User&utm_medium=E-mail:+Newsletters+/+E-Blasts+/+etc.&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links

I am calling on one of Canada’s most respected and accomplished documentary filmmakers to issue a public apology to those he seems to advocate for. The four-time Emmy Award winning John Kastner should have no issue with saying sorry to the forensic patients he claims to care about.

I am not calling him out as someone who has been found Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder (NCR); I am calling John Kastner out as the 2014 Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness And Mental Health Champion of Mental Health.

Please read and listen to Mr. Kastner. If his own syllables do not solicit indignation to everyone involved in mental health I can only assume you don’t mind using stigma for a serviette.

Mr. Kastner has not lived up to the standards of respect and empathy for those affected by the issues. His words are not only offensive but in their context they are thoughtless and a serious error in judgment. Using his own words they are “grotesque stereotypes.”

Many seem to be shouting about how great Mr. Kastner’s productions have been but we’re so busy patting each other on the back that we have failed to realize we are seeing John Kastner’s reality. Has anyone stopped to consider the cognitive bias, confirmation bias and facilitated communication that went into these films? I suspect the presence of all three when even one would undermine a documentary’s validity.

Thank the heavens for ratings and awards or the voice of John Kastner may never have been heard. The public would be bankrupt of his beneficial benevolence or is it barely bull? It brings a tear to my eye to have someone so informed and sensitive to my situation and experiences refer to me as a glassy eyed lunatic who spouts gibberish. Such a saint deserves recognition and awards from other incestuously informed liberals and cultural trendsetters. “Look what we did for the monsters and freaks.” I can hear the martini glasses clinking among the society that at least Sean Clifton is included in.

I don’t know about other individuals who are marginalized and disadvantaged in some form but I find it incredibly insulting to be considered not eloquent enough to defend myself. It isn’t exactly empowering to have someone who sees the world through an eyepiece speak for me. Further, even if I was tongue tied I don’t think I could do a worse job.

I can think of no other disability or minority whose self proclaimed spokesperson in fact has no personal experience or stake in the issue outside of wanting to be placed on a pedestal for personal promotion. Having Mr. Kastner speak for me is like having someone with two legs explaining the meaning of amputation and the problems of a prosthetic. It would be profoundly presumptuous for me to sit in a wheelchair and walk away singing the sorrows of being dependent on one for mobility. Further, to take that self-righteous responsibility on myself would denigrate that disadvantaged person and vanquish their voice which may be where they excel; where they dream and dance.

John Kastner is not a patient nor a psychiatrist, therapist or clinician. He has no relevant experience or education related to forensic mental health. It is obvious to me that while he was looking through his lens of presumptions he missed the entire reality of possibilities. When John Kastner speaks it is like asking the horse what it’s like to be a fish. John Kastner felt a raindrop and now he thinks he has gills.

John Kastner could make a dozen movies about NCR and never understand patients. He clearly doesn’t comprehend their feelings and is without any argument not even clinically trained to appreciate what is actually happening to these individuals. Awarding this author of stigma is an affront to my efforts and the abilities of all Not Criminally Responsible individuals. Thanks for the help but it is in fact harm.

I believe white people can advocate for African Americans but when they use any and all derogatory descriptors they become little more than a man on horseback with eye holes cut in a sheet. You may not be the one to lynch but you are doing little more than fueling the flames that allow the rest to fasten the fibers that tear my flesh.

I don’t need to speak to each of John Kastner’s stigmatizing statements. I could easily refute “glassy eyed“(should be in medical journals as a symptom) “monster” (meaningless and obtuse), “scary as hell” (like he’s even been to the border of it), “raving lunatics” (what constitutes raving and lunatic is an 1800’s misnomer) “spouting gibberish” (read my blog and letters from solitary confinement) but I will speak to his preoccupation with the “Jekyll and Hyde transformation.” This seemingly real transformation he shouts about from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Q” radio and the Globe and Mail should be easy for any documentarian to prove. I challenge Mr. Kastner to show me the factual footage of this apparently very real phenomenon. John Kastner spent 3.5 years in a forensic facility so it should be simply a matter of reviewing a few reels.

John Kastner doesn’t seem to poke his head from polishing his awards and promoting his victimizing views so in the meantime any of us should be able to find this transformation on Google if not in a dictionary. If it is a recurring phrase in ‘John jargon’ it is obviously a recurring event that anyone with an interest in psychiatry could uncover. It must be in every psychiatric and psychology textbook in the nation. Even pharmaceutical companies should have images of this remarkable transformation to promote their anti-psychotic pills or in John Kastner’s world, injections. I have mainly experience to fall on so I will eagerly wait to eat my words which is becoming easy when John Kastner thinks he’s the one who should be using them.

A fantabulous film should not excuse the damage John Kastner has done with his mouth. Mr. Kastner calls on forensic patients to “stop the apologizing.” And he should start.

Slightly Medieval Misconceptions

There seems to be a public misconception perpetuated by the media that when an individual is brought before the courts anyone can make an attempt to use the “mental illness card” and seek a designation of Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder (NCR). Firstly, when a lawyer seeks the designation of NCR it may be the prosecution or the defense and it is rarely at the direction of the accused. Secondly, it is not pursued for any individual with a mental disorder but only in those cases where there is a possibility that the mental disorder rendered the accused incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or of knowing that it was wrong. There needs to be a causal relationship between psychiatric symptoms and the offence. To have a mental disorder itself does not automatically lead to a loss of reality.

A finding of NCR does not simply mean that the accused has a diagnosis but that the disorder removed a crucial element of a crime. In order to be convicted of a crime the prosecuting crown must prove that there was criminal conduct or a guilty act but also that there was a criminal state of mind or a guilty mind beyond a reasonable doubt.

In certain instances a mental disorder can render an individual incapable of appreciating that an act was wrong which can subsequently prove that their mind was not guilty. It is not a matter of being ignorant about a law it is a matter of being incapable.

Individuals who are found to be NCR are not innocent or guilty and are thereafter referred to as the accused. They are usually confined to a forensic hospital for treatment and rehabilitation for an indefinite period. Their progress or lack thereof is reviewed yearly by a Review Board and a disposition is decided by a panel after hearing evidence from the hospital, the crown, the accused and the victims. Restrictions may be removed or added depending on the evidence. Public safety is paramount and it follows that the least restrictive and least onerous conditions for the accused are put in place. Treatment and rehabilitation are important but they do not overshadow public safety.

There are instances where a finding of NCR could be pursued but some lawyers do not pursue it as it places their client in a position of indefinite custody. To act in the best interests of their client a finding of guilt is preferred as the freedom of their client is determinant. This is logical but serves no one as the underlying illness is sometimes ignored. From the perspective of public safety this is the less desirable option as treatment and rehabilitation reduce recidivism.

There is a misconception that to be found NCR is some form of getting off. In some instances NCR individuals gain community access sooner than if they were sentenced but the opposite is just as probable.

My interest in the Luka Magnotta case is that it provides me an opportunity to inform and educate. These high profile cases highlight the stigma and misconceptions that permeate our society. The attitudes that spring forth are of little consequence to me personally but I am alarmed because they affect all individuals who experience mental illness. NCR is not a club or union that seeks members. Like anyone I would prefer to see no NCR cases as I am acutely aware that there are victims on both sides.

The NCR provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code protect us all on many levels. They insure humane and progressive treatment of the accused and for anyone with insight who realizes they are not immune to mental illness it is a relief to know you would not be punished for an illness that rendered you incapable of appreciating the nature of a wrong. No one should be punished for events that are beyond their control. This is civilized and this is humane.

I personally believe that the defense in the Luka Magnotta case has a difficult task but my mind remains open to all possibilities and I will wait for more evidence. There appears to be evidence of knowledge of wrongfulness but even this could be explained in the light of a mental disorder. There can still exist an impaired ability to reason or appreciate. It has to be proven that Luka Magnotta had the ability to apply the knowledge that his actions were wrong. To form an opinion and tie the knot of the noose in the first week of a trial is unfair, dangerous, irresponsible, unjust and slightly medieval.

The Toronto Sun’s Failed Attempt at Facts Using Michele Mandel As A Moronic Media Mistress

It seems the London Free Press is not satisfied with their own ignorance and stupidity so they are borrowing from the Toronto Sun. It all reminds me of a group of children trying to find answers about the big world without leaving the playground. The result is a group of bedwetter’s who are confused as to what Santa Claus actually looks like.

Information mixed with ignorance and opinions are the things we find in schoolyards or typed up as an article in Sun Media. It is not journalism and it has to be dissected to be considered news. It all reminds me of some Conservative Action Plan sign where we have to discern what is real and what is simply political propaganda.

Michele Mandel seems to have fallen from the teeter totter and bruised her cranium. When your head is up your derriere these things happen. My condolences go out to her proctologist in having to figure out what is what.

According to Michele Mandel, jurors in the Luka Magnotta case “have the unenviable task of determining the murky line between evil and madness.” Evil and madness seem like simple words but beyond sensationalism they could mean anything. Evil could even be the person in the drive thru who gives me the tomatoes I decline but it seems Michele Mandel is the only one among us with a handle on it. We haven’t been able to figure out evil for eons but in this case it’s whatever Sun Media wants it to be.

Madness seems the more manageable moniker but it is not discerned in any fashion by Michele Mandel. Is she referring to mental illness in general or is madness a specific disorder? Is bipolar disorder madness? Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder madness? Is Depression madness? Or is, as it is being argued in the case of Luka Magnotta schizophrenia madness?

What exactly is madness? I have perused my medical library, Google and Wikipedia and I can’t find an answer but it seems some journalist with a phoney degree in jurisprudence knows what it is exactly. Do share Michele Mandel. The world needs your expertise.

Let’s assume Michele Mandel knows a lick about schizophrenia and because we are speaking about Luka Magnotta that she is referring to abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real. That being said Nobel Prize winner John Nash and author Jack Kerouac must also be considered mad. As a side note and prediction I doubt Michele Mandel will ever be as accomplished or recognized. We will assume Michele Mandel’s mental health is directly linked to her mediocrity.

According to Michele Mandel’s schoolyard logic there was a murky line with regards to John Nash and he somehow narrowly missed being named evil person of the year or he was at least accidentally awarded with a Nobel Prize. I realize Luka Magnotta is not in the running for any award but if he is found to have been incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or of knowing that it was wrong he is neither evil nor mad, he has a mental disorder. Michele Mandel should be able to appreciate incapable as would most journalists recruited to spew for Sun Media.

I don’t mean to infer that Michele Mandel has a language deficiency as her article has an array of words for mental illness; it’s almost poetic. She gets quite technical and medically irrelevant with words like “crazy”, “insanity”, “ravings” and “diabolical.” For those with an IQ it is journalistic junk recorded in a rag.

If nothing else Michele Mandel is honest as she admits it is impossible to discern between madness and evil. Thankfully the courts do not depend on a journalistic joke and literary lightweight. Canadians don’t need to depend on people who are barely capable with a keyboard. We have forensic psychiatrists who use science to make their way through what to her is a murky line. For them it is not a political penchant but a matter of training, knowledge and experience.

Michele Mandel’s rambling recount of selective facts is thankfully not what the jury will use to determine a verdict and to utter such nonsense is a disservice to impartial journalism, justice and mental health in general. My advice to Michele Mandel is to keep your childish notions out of print so Canadians with integrity can better determine the line between guilt and Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder. Your agenda and that of your employer should never find its way into print.

The Folly and Fault of the London Free Press

Yesterdays headline in the London Free Press was: “Luka Magnotta lawyer to seek insanity defence”

Only the London Free Press could screw up simple terminology.

The term insanity is still used in the United States but I expect a Canadian newspaper about a Canadian citizen in a Canadian courtroom to be referenced using current and Canadian terminology. To do otherwise is irreverent and irresponsible. The London Free Press wouldn’t have the audacity to refer to races in a historical context. This example is stigma incorporated.

“Insanity” is not considered a medical diagnosis and has not even been considered a legal term for over two decades so I find it difficult to pull anything informative out of this sensational use of words. In short it is a journalistic joke as it lacks factual flavour. The use of pejorative and offensive terms has no place in public periodicals. It is unnecessary and damaging. We only arm attitudes when we revert to old terminology in any way but most especially in a public way.

“On September 16, 1991 Bill C-30, “Proposals to Amend the Criminal Law Concerning Mental Disorder”, was tabled. Bill C-30 brought about numerous changes and created a whole new system for managing mentally disordered accused under part XX.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Bill C-30 was responsible for:
Creating new terminology: “a mental disorder” replaced “natural imbecility” or “disease of the mind”, and “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder” replaced not guilty on account of insanity.”

The London Free Press says: “Lawyers for Luka Rocco Magnotta will ask a jury to declare the defendant not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.” Wrong. Lawyers are using provisions in the criminal code to determine if Luka Magnotta can be found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder.

As further evidence of the incompetence of the London Free Press they insist that Luka Magnotta “is the latest high-profile Canadian murder defendant to seek a not-criminally responsible verdict.” Unless the London Free Press has some way around lawyer-client confidentiality this statement is less than hearsay and likely a fabrication. It is also a contradiction with the headline itself. We are told his lawyer is seeking this defence but also that Luka Magnotta is seeking the defence. Which is it? My guess is Luka Magnotta is unfamiliar with this specialized area of the law and is allowing his lawyer to act in his best interests as is usually the case. The Free Press insinuates that Luka Magnotta has conspired with his lawyer to form this defence. His lawyer is acting on his behalf not likely at his direction. Not Criminally Responsible defendants are a very small group of offenders who in no way exploit the legal system but are in fact prone to abuse by it. Luka Magnotta is presumed to be sane and to have been sane at the time of his offences and it is up to the defence to prove otherwise on a balance of probabilities.

Many individuals involved with this aspect of the law are unable to inform their legal counsel of anything, let alone a possible defence. Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defence, it was a defence of default for me. I was incapable of any defence. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. People who are unable to appreciate the nature of their crime, specifically the fact that it was criminally wrong and probably morally wrong are usually unable to appreciate the complexities of the law.

Today we have a comprehension of the power of words and the disrespect and attitudes they entrench. This terminology was once used to describe people with mental illness and mental disabilities and is therefore historically accurate but it is not socially acceptable presently or currently accurate. It is sensational and label driven. The term insane branded all patients including those with learning disabilities. In the past insane was not intended to be derogatory but can only be considered so today.

It should be noted that we take care about the language used to describe race or intellectual disability but we are less careful in describing individuals with mental illness. I can hear the cries about political correctness and language police but if that is your argument you haven’t taken the time to consider the lives of those affected by such language. The argument against political correctness held no water for minorities and it shouldn’t for any disability.

This headline is as offensive as reminding readers of how we used to refer to African-Americans. To further the insult it is not even correct. This insult is truly ignorant. Would the London Free Press call attention to individuals of different ethnicity who have over the past century been called many things? We no longer call these individuals anything we like.

You can call me oversensitive, off the wall or anything you like but don’t even come close to associating the individuals I have shared my life with as insane. They are not. They are ill; they are mental health patients and consumers. Insanity or insane is derogatory and insulting when used by others, it is also dehumanizing and entrenches unhealthy attitudes. I find it telling that such a reference is embraced when it comes to mental health.

We risk reawakening and highlighting misconceptions in individuals who feed on headlines. I believe many find the brunt of their information and knowledge from such sources. We don’t have to worry about those who are knowledgeable, for they do little to feed stigma. The people who perpetuate stigma have as a foundation of knowledge the very things the London Free Press is holding a candle to.

We combat racism by not tolerating any of it, in any form, on any occasion. References to mental health that are stigmatizing are no different. The corpse of old terms will never smell good and in fact spreads its putrid perfume on us all when it is waltzed with.

I have used the word insane to describe myself and it is my prerogative to do so, just as African-Americans refer to themselves with words they would be offended by others using. It is a way to remove the power from such hurtful speech. Insanity is not only draped in the derogatory but it also has a hopeless flavour to it; some incurable nature.

I am in no way inferring that Luka Magnotta is Not Criminally Responsible any more than I would say he is guilty or innocent. I leave those determinations up to the people appointed to ensure justice prevails despite my personal perceptions and opinions. The London Free Press seems to have other motivations. If Luka Magnotta is in fact Not Criminally Responsible he is not insane. He would be suffering from a mental disorder at the time of his offence. Further, there would be as much promise of recovery and rehabilitation as in any other case. It is not a hopeless or permanent state.

I realize it is not the mandate of the London Free Press to combat stigma but is the responsibility of every journalist to refrain from perpetuating stigma. If this article was a historical reference to “African Americans” we would be appalled and someone would be delivering papers instead of writing in them. The fact that our sensitivities do not extend to those affected by mental illness is stigma itself.

Stigma is a major barrier for individuals in need of mental health services. Casual language used to describe mental illness is often negative and I believe the London Free Press owes the one in five Londoners affected by mental illness an explanation if not an apology.

I have no short term expectation that people will stop using stigmatizing terms but if we are to start, a community newspaper is a good place. I would recommend a more honest and frank dialogue regarding mental illness so we can move beyond the stigma.

People will call me over sensitive but this is not some attempt at political correctness. It is a legitimate attempt to ease the debilitating stigma attached to mental illness. Language evolves and I see no better place to start than in a newspaper. Is it sad or sadistic that the London Free Press clings to terminology found in musty manuscripts? The use of the word insanity implies that all individuals found Not Criminally Responsible are dangerous. This myth serves no one and migrates to all individuals with mental health difficulties.

The London Free Press is using this terminology to be sensational rather than accurate. I take exception to being mislead and though it makes for good press it is a disservice and an insult to all who are affected by mental illness.

It is a euphemism treadmill where the language that is acceptable today may eventually be perceived as an insult but it is still necessary to continue on the path as a form of respect for those affected. Just because “African-American” may eventually fall as an insult does not give license to cling to and promote the terminology of the past. I see this progression for what it is…progress.

The Andrew Lawton Show = Stigma In Stereo

Here in London, Ontario we have several radio stations one of which is AM 980. For most that are unfamiliar with this branch of CFPL AM, it is a species of FOX. Normally when I want to hear something stupid I watch the parliamentary question period but today I was informed of a program on Not Criminally Responsible. The host Andrew Lawton seems proud to boast that his is London’s most irreverent talk show.

I completely understand the meaning of irreverence but a lack of respect for individuals suffering from serious and persistent mental illness is beyond irreverence. It is shameful and worthy of listeners or any who are affected by mental illness to make a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. As compassionate and informed citizens we need to take responsibility in not perpetuating stigma and for people with a public platform that responsibility is imperative if not implied. To vilify people with mental illness cannot be excused by claiming irreverence. If Londoners were subjected to this disrespect directed at any other marginalized and disadvantaged population we would be outraged. These individuals have no voice so it falls to those of us who can stand up to take a stand.

I call for a public apology from Mr. Lawton for the one in five affected by mental illness. This would be a significant and necessary step for Mr. Lawton to take in the discontinuation of mental health stigma. As citizens any apathy is a continuation of the destructive and irresponsible attitudes that have contributed to the suffering of all individuals with mental health difficulties. To see no harm is the foul.

The best part of The Andrew Lawton Show is the 40 second lead in where Andrew is mute. It is as the opening song states “the show that never ends” but if we care about mental illness it clearly should.

The forensic system is made up of highly trained and educated individuals who specialize in this often obscure area of mental health. I could call Andrew Lawton on not including a lawyer or psychiatrist but even I know these people would have to be further specialized to be of any significance to the exchange of proper and significant information.

Andrew Lawton is a liar. In a past show he tells us that a lot of work goes into preparing stories and lining up guests. Maybe for locksmiths but for the complexities of forensic mental health we have only the breath and brain of an ignorant broadcaster.

I’m not sure if it ironic or just sad that Andrew Lawton took the time to interview a locksmith who deals with door handles but found no reason to include anyone with forensic relevance to his so called show on Not Criminally Responsible (NCR). I don’t know whether to be angry or laugh at the fact that a show that involved the intricacies of the Canadian Criminal Code, The Mental Health Act and forensic psychiatry was sewn together with only Mr. Lawton’s delusions, while the segment that followed involving locksmiths actually involved a locksmith. I can in no way shine a brighter light on this man’s arrogance, stupidity and irresponsibility.

I do not believe irreverence or any other excuse precludes responsibility to the truth in airing publicly opinions or anything near information. Mr. Lawton begins his program in a mire or misinformation. He seems to want listeners to think that individuals found Not Criminally Responsible “never have to spend time in jail.” I spent 10 months in a detention centre or jail and was exposed to all the punishment and more because of my delusions. If Mr. Lawton wants to confirm my confinement he can ask the guard who refused me a shower and toothbrush for 7 days. He can look up in the records how long I spent in solitary confinement and he can even interview the other prisoners who took advantage of my illness. Mr. Lawton seems disappointed that I was sent to a mental health facility for treatment and not for punishment. Sorry.

To assist Mr. Lawton in his ignorance I would point out that guilt is not the act but the act of knowing. When someone is found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder it is because experts have found that they could not appreciate the nature of the act or omission. They are not sentenced according to a code of punishment but are placed under forensic mental health care. Forensic mental health facilities are secure, humane, progressive and therapeutic. Interdisciplinary teams are used to progress patients through rehabilitation and treatment. These facilities are hospitals and not jails because Not Criminally Responsible offenders are not criminals they are patients. They require not our judgement or fear but rather our assistance.

It is not a chosen path so it makes no sense to punish the traveler for being where they are. It is difficult for many to reconcile illness with atrocity. It needs to be kept in mind that without the illness there may have been no crime. We recognize the defendant but we cannot see the culprit. The culprit is mental illness.

Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defense. If I had my way I would have been a brilliant lawyer at my own trial. It was a defense of default for me. I was incapable of any other defense. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. If we are to be merciful it is imperative we do not punish illness. It is pointless and cruel.

If it is an eye for an eye, Christ`s words were wasted.

Mr. Lawton seems to think treatment is a “mentality” and rehabilitation is an “argument.” I would suggest getting off your high horse as both are in fact science and medicine. They are both carried out by people with years of experience and expertise. I suggest that Mr. Lawton is in fact deflecting his own inadequacies. He is in no way qualified so he assumes the same of others. Unlike himself, these practitioners are universally recognized as experts. Were he to give them this credit he would be forced to submit his conservative worldview to information and science which we know is like oil and water.

Mr. Lawton simply states the obvious when he says he has “very little place in my heart for people like this.” People like what? People with serious and persistent mental illness? People caught up in circumstances they never imagined? People who are marginalized and disadvantaged? I can only state the obvious and point out that people like Mr. Lawton have no heart. Theirs is a world of retribution where answers are only found in anger and indifference.

Mr Lawton seems proud of the fact that he covers stories that “you won’t hear from mainstream media.” Could it be because they have scruples, integrity and a responsibility to the public to present researched information or at least investigate a story rather than jumping from the horse with a mouthful from the one in front? Just because a thought enters your cowboy hat does not abdicate you of being responsible with your platform. I find it ironic that a whole story devoted to the distaste of people being found not responsible is carried out by an individual who is nothing more than irresponsible himself. Canadians spend millions to combat stigma and a man with a microphone sweeps much of it away with his own personal ignorance which he disguises as opinion.
Andrew Lawton seems to think it is some sort of public service to illustrate an individual case and circumstance and call into question broad and pointless arguments. Calling into question rehabilitation and treatment in general because of a mentally ill individual’s personal oversight is irresponsible and imbecilic. It is as logical as asking if police should be allowed to carry handguns after a civilian shooting. Each officer is unique as are the civilians and circumstances that bring them together. In case the analogy escapes you Mr. Lawton each person who is found to be Not Criminally Responsible is unique as is their treatment and rehabilitation.

With regard to Thomas Brailsford I can only use my own experiences to dispel Mr. Lawton’s ignorance. I was held on a medium secure unit for roughly one year before I was allowed passes on the hospital grounds and it was well over a year before I entered the community on indirectly supervised passes. Extreme caution is exercised in the issuance of passes and privileges. If Mr. Brailsford was released on a pass the public’s safety was paramount. If he was considered a danger or even a threat to himself or others he would never have been granted a pass. This news story is basically about a non-dangerous individual breaking a curfew.

I am taking Mr. Lawton to task because these individuals in most cases are disabled. We cannot see the limp but the disadvantage is obvious if we look beyond our misconceptions. Mr. Lawton can be proud of the fact that he devoted half his show to spouting stigma and disrespecting people who struggle with day to day life. Again, I call on Londoners and others to voice their disapproval of this man and his show. Would we stand silent if it was homeless people in wheelchairs? I think not and that is the slippery slope of stigma.

Mr. Lawton asks if these offenders “should even have rights.” I hate to be the one to break it to this man but as Canadians we all have rights in all instances and they are protected in the Charter and the Constitution. Even free speech which Mr. Lawton seems to have swindled someone into paying him for is a right until it becomes hate. You sir are close to that edge.

I would never call Mr. Lawton a moron so I will let him say it himself. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” In case this stupidity seems some typographical error I will once again type it word for word. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” One can only wonder which parts Mr. Lawton wishes people to be responsible for. The temperature? The day of the week?

Andrew Lawton seems to think Not Criminally Responsible is “not of the criminal code but of the justice system.” I hate to point this man to a book but in fact Not Criminally Responsible has been part of the criminal code for over a century. There are no illustrations but even Mr. Lawton could read the print if he was willing to expend the energy or had the intellect.

For Mr. Lawton the designation of Not Criminally Responsible has “gotten people treatment the community would not like to see them receive.” Only the community that is totally callous and without compassion which clearly includes Mr. Lawton.

Another lie made by Mr. Lawton is his insistence that David Carmichael who killed his son “did not know what he was doing and was then released.” In fact he was held in the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital for 3 years if memory serves. Should people in public broadcasting be allowed to promote lies to perpetuate their opinions and mental health stigma? I think we could ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that one.

To further Mr. Lawton’s ignorance he calls on his listeners. Adam believes, “the general public doesn’t know what is best anymore.” They never have which is why we have legal and medical experts. It might be fun to stone people on a whim but we have come to the conclusion that justice is best served otherwise. Emotions are not logic or legal and justice remains blind so that evidence precludes emotion.

Blinded by his own belligerence Mr. Lawton turns to Mark who digresses into some story about Nazi’s, the Japanese of WW2 and further peppers his ignorance with words like bonkers and crazy as though he isn’t. Mark states that he doesn’t trust psychiatrists to see the difference between a murderous mindset and mental illness as though he can.

For any who are not intimately insulted as they have not been found NCR take heart as Mr. Lawton “completely recognizes that, by the way, if you are dealing with mental illness you are not operating at full capacity, you are not operating in a sense you are completely responsible for your actions.” He must mean people like Churchill, Lincoln, or Patton. “I completely recognize that, by the way, but that doesn’t excuse you from doing whatever you want.” Like anyone would want to kill their 78 year old mother or their child? Mr. Lawton believes NCR individuals are not being called to account for their actions. Those actions are usually a result of delusions and hallucinations which are not asked for or rationalized. No one wishes to be involved in any of these sad circumstances. A tragedy is sometimes simply a tragedy.

Andrew Lawton wants to bring our attention to Thomas Brailsford who he claims ran away. Mr. Lawton believes he was handed an unsupervised pass. In fact it was first decided by a judge, a lawyer, a crown, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a member of the public and a health care team to grant this privilege and it would not have been issued outright but in incremental degrees as trust and health dictated. Mr. Lawton asks “what would have stopped him from hurting himself or others.” It is something that completely escapes Andrew Lawton; rehabilitation and treatment. Hundreds of NCR individuals are integrated back into communities without incident but thanks for shrouding one instance in stigma. It furthers your political agenda and perpetuates public misconceptions. There’s a media award for that right?

Dear John Kastner: Medicine Is Not Media and Therapy Is Not Theater

(http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/forensic-psychiatric-patients-are-ill-not-evil—and-we-should-stop-hiding-them/article18205568/?utm_source=Shared+Article+Sent+to+User&utm_medium=E-mail:+Newsletters+/+E-Blasts+/+etc.&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links)

Re: Forensic psychiatric patients are ill, not evil – and we should stop hiding them.

According to the great documentarian John Kastner, “it’s time for forensic psychiatric patients to stop hiding; stop the apologizing; stop begging for understanding and start demanding that people recognize they are called patients…”

I’m not sure whether to weep or wail at John Kastner’s ignorance. As a past forensic patient I have had a well followed blog for near three years. I have been nominated and chosen as a Champion of Mental Health at a regional and national level. I speak publicly at universities, hospitals and conferences. I have been on TV and radio as a past forensic patient. I’m not exactly famous but for a documentarian I’m basically hiding behind a toothpick. I can only guess Mr. Kastner’s blindness is a direct result of his myopic movies.

It seems incongruent that a national note to empower forensic patients included not a word from one. Thanks for the disrespect and disempowerment.

Even the title of Mr. Kastner’s “new documentary about “THEM”: Out of Mind, Out of Sight: inside the Brockville Psych.” Is an affront to forensic psychiatry and mental health care in general. Anyone with the internet can discover that it is not “Brockville Psych” but it is in fact called and known as The Brockville Mental Health Centre. I know nothing about documentary films but shouldn’t the title be the actual name of the facility? Leave the name out if you have no constructive way of wording it. Further, a truthful title would add to Mr. Kastner’s insistence that his craft is other than sensational like the media he accuses of the same.

As an individual who has lived as a forensic psychiatric patient and was found to be Not Criminally Responsible on Account of a Mental Disorder I take great offence at Mr. Kastner’s so called defence of individuals similar to me. Mr. Kastner’s article doesn’t even make it out of the first sentence without draping readers with the derogatory. Mr. Kastner mentions that these individuals were once referred to as “criminally insane” which is as offensive as reminding readers of how we used to refer to African-Americans.To further the insult it is not even correct. Criminally insane connotates psychopathy which is excluded from forensic interventions as these individuals are presently incurable. The insult is truly ignorant when we consider that in the past these individuals were in fact referred to as Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.

The second sentence of Mr. Kastner’s so called salve to stigma is not offensive but revealing of the underlying ambition of self promotion which he reiterates twice more in an article of eleven paragraphs. Do Canadians a favour and take out an advertisement which can’t be confused with information or objectivity.

Mr. Kastner faults mental health professionals in Canada for keeping forensic patients hidden from public view as though cancer patients can be found in the flyers on my doorstep. It must be inconceivable for someone who puts anything on film to consider that privacy and peace are integral to healing. Privacy and peace are therapeutic, progressive and necessary. My physician does not have a projectAtron in the waiting room but apparently my psychiatrist should. The public needs to better understand the instances and individuals affected but Mr. Kastner’s tone would have me next to the bearded lady in a carnival. Most forensic patients, me included would rather return to the regular and have jobs, friends and families. I forgo the camouflage of the ordinary so people like Mr. Kastner can become informed and leave those I know and understand to the lives they choose. Medicine is not media and therapy is not theater. Filmmakers should focus on their own art and leave the art of healing to clinicians.

Upon first reading Mr. Kastner’s words I figured he had only fouled his first two sentences but he followed with a third. “Here’s how the hiding works: a person suffering from mental illness commits a horrific act of violence.” There are instances of horrific acts of violence but many are involved in forensic mental health care for less serious situations. If Mr. Kastner wove a story about prison we would only be familiar with murderers. There are no headlines or horrors in many instances so Kastner does not cast them. They do not fit into his worldview or preconceived notions. Whether it is a documentary or a newscast we see only bloodshed because it is about blockbusters. Even a documentarian wants to have people watch his film. We would be barely curious to the reality, so it is formed and fashioned into film and footnotes for consumption. The myriad of avenues for coming into conflict with the law are overlooked in the name of ratings and reviews.

Mr. Kastner in his one man battle against stigma refers to me and all other forensic patients as “glassy-eyed people in jail jump suits. Scary as hell.” Less than a paragraph later he describes himself as “a filmmaker who has helped de-stigmatize many of his subjects…” I would add, at the expense of all others. It all becomes documentarian doublespeak. Mr. Kastner is doing no more for forensic patients than Sun Media themselves.

Mr. Kastner thinks “the secrecy is a terrible idea. You cannot de-stigmatize people by hiding them away.” It makes for easy filmmaking and spectacular shots but few who struggle with mental illness are helped by promotion and publicity. Do you want to see anyone when you have a headache? As a filmmaker I can forgive Mr. Kastner for being ignorant to mental health but he obviously needs reminding of that ignorance.

Many of the advances that were made with me took place behind closed doors. I went to the mall, I went to the library and I went to the park. I sat in a psychiatrist’s office, I sat with a psychologist, I sat with a social worker, I sat with a nurse and I sat with an occupational therapist. I worked through my mental health challenges in privacy, not secrecy. If I took Mr. Kastner’s recommendation I would be on the front steps of the hospital with well wishers honking as they drove past my pain and struggle.

Mr. Kastner’s logic seems to be that practitioners are unhelpful and hide patients. The message they are sending is that “these people are such freaks we dare not show them to you.” I have been around enough mental health practitioners that I have diagnoses for Mr. Kastner. He suffers from projection. As a filmmaker he will be familiar with one of its meanings but it has nothing to do with documentaries. Mr. Kastner concisely and conclusively attributes his own ideas, feelings and attitudes to other people. Here follow his own words; “criminally insane, glassy-eyed, scary as hell, Vincent Li’s, literally raving lunatics, spouting gibberish, often potentially violent, and the Jekyll and Hyde transformation.” I may be spouting gibberish but I can only wonder how Mr. Kastner’s words can be extrapolated from stigma itself into any semblance of a “filmmaker who has helped de-stigmatize many of his subjects.” Mr. Kastner is stigma in action and voice.

I can’t imagine someone so completely blind to the workings of forensic psychiatry or the feelings of those who live and work in it. According to Mr. Kastner he spent 3 and half years in the forensic psychiatric system. Showing up on Tuesday with a TV clearly doesn’t make you informed. I am reminded several times in Mr. Kastner’s article that he has made two documentaries on forensic psychiatry. Mr. Kastner will likely never know what it means to be confined for father’s day without a card or call, family day without family or Christmas without either. I suggest Mr. Kastner has little to no insight into the patient experience which enables him to cast his wounding words. He similarly has no insight into clinician care, knowledge or expertise. Mr. Kastner is a filmmaker. If Canadians need to know about cartoons or colour filters we can call him but when it comes to being a voice for forensic psychiatry or forensic patients he should do us the favour of keeping his mouth shut.

Mr. Kastner believes that hospital staff, who he admits desire to protect their patients are in a “large part responsible for the stigmatization of their patients.” Please Sir, take some credit yourself. Have any of those hospital staff used a national newspaper to call their patients Hyde or lunatics? Save us the sanctimony.

Mr. Kastner has become familiar with some extreme cases and rolled them up into a story he considers complete and most ashamedly now the public considers the same. His focus, language and footage have in no way illuminated anything but a figment of his imagination and a projection of his paltry and pathetic brush with the forensic system and sadder yet forensic patients.

Mr. Kastner calls forensic patients out to “start demanding that people recognize they are called patients…” In approximately 10 paragraphs he did not call me or my friends a patient. I was “criminally insane, hidden, a resident of a psych, someone who has committed a horrific act of violence, glassy eyed, scary as hell, Vincent Li’s, monsters, freaks, raving lunatics often potentially violent and someone who spouts gibberish. If ever he reads this, gibberish may not be the first descriptor he uses.

Mr. Kastner offers me and my friends hope and allays the public’s fears by explaining how “after just two or three injections of anti-psychotic ‘drugs’…many literally returned to their senses.” What he calls the Jekyll and Hyde transformation. I have been a consumer of mental health services for over 35 years and not once have I been injected with a “medication.” I was found Not Criminally Responsible but before, during or after I have been no more Jekyll than Hyde.

I can only hope Mr. Kastner’s documentaries and words do something for himself for they are of little use to those he claims to champion. If a person wants to find fame by filming the forensic please leave your delusions at the door.

I am and we are so much more than Mr. Kastner has ever stopped to imagine.

I’m Not Sure How You Screw Up 140 Characters But It Seems The Best Way Is To Elect Them

I’m trying to lose weight and have tried numerous diets as I am allergic to activity. Recently, I have been having some success by viewing various Conservative Party of Canada candidate, MP and ministerial communications. I can’t keep down most of what I eat as a result if and when I even have an appetite. Stupidity is for me at least mildly nauseating.

Today I had a hankering for a double cheeseburger and a milkshake so I visited Minister for Public Safety Steve Blaney’s Twitter account. Fighting what seems like the flu I will forward a few words.

If compassion had anything to do with conservatism minister Blaney would be all over the twitterverse with photo’s of himself towering over individuals with mental illness in a healthcare setting. Instead Minister Blaney allows individuals under his charge with serious and persistent mental illness to linger in solitary confinement. It seems with this government security and healthcare is like oil and water.

As contrast we have the Conservative Party of Canada tweeting “We are the only party who will protect gun owners. Retweet if you’re with us.” I was ignorant of the fact that gun owners were a marginalized and vulnerable population. Minister Blaney’s twisted tweet includes an image of a semi-automatic rifle and his own quote: “Owners of the CZ-858 and Swiss Arms rifles that were ‘impacted’ can now use their private property once again, as should have always been the case.” I don’t know about my readers but I feel safer knowing this government is protecting gun owners. Guns don’t kill, governments do. If gun ownership is proximal to safety or security we are a nation of idiots.

When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued the prohibition of these semi-automatic firearms, gun rights advocates were up in ‘arms.’ According to them 10 000 Canadians became criminals overnight because they now possessed prohibited firearms. Apparently they had difficulty looking up amnesty in the dictionary. Considering ammunition is the word preceding it I can see the problem. They may not even have come that close as they fixated on Americanize.

Firearms lawyer Ed Burlew filed class action suits against the federal government and RCMP. Burlew’s lawsuit was seeking $10 million in punitive damages and $20 000 for each owner of the firearms in question for mental distress and anxiety. While ignoring the mental distress and anxiety of people with serious and persistent mental illness the conservatives capitulated. The only time this government is capable with mathematics is in measuring votes. Gun owners are organized and vote, people with serious and persistent mental illness don’t. Polls trump human decency and social justice every time. I was aware of the fact that this government doesn’t give a damn about mental illness but when their compassion is placed on pistol possessors the double cheeseburger becomes a distant thought.

I know what you’re thinking. “Brett, you have no empathy or compassion for people who wield weapons. What about their distress and anxiety?”

In fact I may be the only citizen in this country who has experienced serious and persistent mental illness in solitary confinement and was once a gun owner. Following one of my hospitalizations I was advised to surrender my shotguns. Possibly it was too traumatic and I have blocked it out but I have no recollection of mental distress or anxiety from the experience. Burlew’s lawsuit was both superfluous and humourous. This government takes on legal battles which they should submit to but capitulate for 10 000 votes.

I wanted a sense of who these gun owners are. Google guided me to the Alberta Magazine Outdoorsmen, Alberta’s only hunting, fishing and trapping magazine. The forum I found was full of indignation. None of these outdoorsmen seemed to have names but are clearly nincompoops.

‘recce43’ said “do not turn anything in. laws only work if the public complies.” These words seem to fly in the oft repeated mantra that gun owners are law abiding citizens. ‘recce43’ did in fact know how to use capital letters as he explained at the bottom of the post “LIFE IS TOUGH…TOUGHER IF YOU’RE STUPID” He should know as he followed with “women have the right to work whenever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home” Minister Blaney and the prime minister must be proud to be able to accommodate and cooperate with such citizens.

‘Mistagin’ explains the reason the prohibition was repealed while solitary confinement remains a solution for mental illness. “I just sent off a letter to MP Blaney and PM Harper.” I can’t be the only one to get a chill thinking these individuals actually influence conservative policy. You are who votes for you.

I understand that a minister responsible for public safety would be involved in firearm policy but how is it that Canadians are kept safe by allowing more semi-automatic firearms? Children who don’t own BB guns are proportionately less likely to have their eye penetrated by a pellet. It’s not science, it’s sensibility and common sense but that revolution has died.

According to Canada’s National Firearms Association (NFA) prohibiting firearms has nothing to do with preventing bad behaviour. Possibly not but it minimizes the damage done in many of those instances. You can’t control the criminal but it’s tough to pull a trigger when the gun is with the government. The NFA is lobbying the government to eliminate prohibited categories of firearms, rescind clauses on barrel length and caliber that classify firearms and regulations affecting magazine capacity. They also want to eliminate ‘punitive’ safe storage and transport requirements, the Chief Firearms Officers and remove the administration of the Firearms Act from control of the RCMP.

Basically the NFA would like to see shotguns next to six-packs at convenience stores. We need to ask ourselves if we want ‘recce43’ running around with rifles without rules.

I complied with the recommendation to relinquish my rifles because as crazy as I was I was also insightful, responsible and conscientious.

It is criminals who carry out offences using firearms but many of these illegal weapons were and are obtained legally initially. Minister Blaney and Prime Minister Harper need to pull themselves from the polls and decide if the freedoms of gun owners should trump true public safety.

Just because you can lobby, write letters and make phone calls doesn’t make your influence or interests just. In this case it just makes for poor policy. I don’t believe I am the only Canadian who finds comfort in being different from America. Two important differences worth protecting are healthcare and gun control. This government is too busy aiming for votes to adjudicate ethically to either.

Measurable As Murder

Police officers are trained that at 20 to 30 feet a person with a weapon can close in on them and cause serious harm. If officers themselves create this unsafe distance it becomes measurable as murder.
Sammy Yatim was shot eight times while holding a knife on an empty streetcar. When officers first arrived the distance was safe and no one was near Sammy. Sammy stayed on the streetcar so it goes without saying that the dangerous distance was created by officers themselves. Instead of firing eight shots into a community and distressed individual the situation could have been contained and a negotiator or anyone else with people skills could have been called on. Sammy could have been left on the streetcar all night until he fell asleep, but he fell dead.
Here in Ontario police cadets at Ontario Police College are trained for 12 weeks. Is it difficult to imagine that a highly experienced and educated psychiatric nurse could be trained in those same 12 weeks? I would argue that a psychiatric nurse armed with police tactics would be capable of dealing with someone on an abandoned streetcar who has a knife.
There have been instances of nurses in hospitals dealing with patients who are brandishing sharps. Those incidents have never resulted in a patient being shot 8 times and Tasered for good measure. How is it half a dozen brave highly trained officers end up pulling pistols to answer a knife? Cowardice is the first word I come up with but callous stupidity may be closer to the mark.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have recently made mental health issues a priority for Ontarians. After well over 100 years dealing with individuals with mental illness it is as pathetic as it is progressive to finally make mental health training a priority.
Any who are familiar with my modus operandi will not be surprised at my lack of excitement at such news. I am unlikely to send the new commissioner a card expressing my gratitude at hundreds of officers finally knowing half as much as they should. If the Ontario Provincial Police were involved in an excess of tax fraud would they blanket officers with training in accountancy or would they approach government with a call for expertise from outside their ranks?
In 2012, the Ontario Provincial Police responded to over 27,000 occurrences involving 7,192 people identified in the OPP’s Niche Records Management System (RMS) as “mentally disordered.” Training officers in mental health matters is a beginning but it would be more productive to leave medicine to healthcare workers. Nurses don’t surround a bank robbery but cops surround a mental health matter. Why? Why do we not question the police being involved in mental health?
Some will say I am a mouth piece and in particular would likely wet myself under similar circumstances. I soundly proclaim to have been placed in more dangerous situations without backup, bulletproof vest, sidearm or any training. Outside of that I was not paid over $60 000 and it was not my job. Citizens are to be protected not perforated with bullets when the hair on the back of your neck goes up. We are lead to believe police officers have some chokehold on courage but it resides in each of us. Some would scream but as many would do as well if not better.
My first contact with London’s Chief of Police started with me querying about the man with scissors that was shot dead wearing a hospital gown. The chief proclaimed that he had a pair of scissors as though it was a foregone conclusion that an officer would have likely died. I’m not privy to the filtering of who becomes a police officer but I would suggest weeding out the men and women who are afraid of someone trapped on a streetcar with a knife. If you’re afraid of scissors stay home.
The cops and robbers mentality is fun on a playground but in real life not all citizens involved in a police exchange are bad people.
I had a friend in high school who pleaded with a police officer not to charge him as he was interested in becoming a police officer himself. The officer’s response was “you put your pants on one leg at a time don’t you?” Obviously my friend was no different from anyone else. He was not special but the officer painted himself with the same obvious nature of humanity. We all put our pants on one leg at a time. Officers do not need impunity as much as they need integrity. In the real world when someone makes a catastrophic mistake on the job they are fired. Police forces could and should purge themselves of any officer who is derelict in their duties. Police unions end up ensuring the chaff is part of the service. Officers are not infallible unless you ask one. When officers are aggrandized it minimizes the value of the rest of us and perpetuates these sad statistics.
In Ontario we have the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to investigate serious incidents involving police officers. It is composed of 54 full and part time investigators. Forty-seven are former police officers. I’m jaded but that’s about as logical as making five year olds daycare supervisors. In 97 percent of cases the investigation exonerates the subject officer. This is statistically suspect if not sad. It’s not much more than a catch and release program.
What needs to be done differently? Actually the change needs to be in attitudes. The citizen needs to be regarded as someone’s son, sister or child. Paint people with the similarity of neighbours and you’re less like to Taser, shoot and beat them. An attitude of better than and separate leads to brutality.

Aside

I received my final grade 12 credits at an adult learning centre in St. Thomas. I was in my thirties and living on a forensic rehabilitation unit. I had been to college for a year but somehow without my grade 12. I don’t remember it being my idea to go and I found it tiring but it was good for me in many ways. I saw faces that were different and met some great staff and students.
It was a little awkward being a student who was locked up at night. The big white vans we travelled in were familiar to the community. They gave us bagged lunches which I never thought much of figuratively and literally. A young woman who was friendly to me commented on the sawed off juice containers they included. “Where do you get those, they’re cute.” They didn’t give us Costco cards or I’d have flashed one. I should have mumbled something about my aunt who was either in hospital or worked in one.
We would sometimes have to take a taxi back to the hospital. One day a fellow patient and I were in one together. When we got back to the hospital he asked me if I knew I was supposed to sit in the back. I would sit in the front when I was alone or not. That’s where the view was. I might not have had my grade 12 but I wasn’t stupid.

Irony

The troubles with regards to Corrections Canada and the political apathy that has hung like a cloud for decades over the conditions inmates with mental illness are exposed to has been put in perspective for me this morning. I feel a little foolish having for so long gone on about people like Ashley Smith and the recent coverage by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of inmates with mental illness kept in solitary confinement. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation delivered to my plate a headline that almost makes me want to eat my words.

“Turkey farm video shows “gaping hole” in government animal welfare oversight”

“’The birds are not being properly monitored’ said Ian Duncan, an animal welfare expert with the University of Guelph.” I checked for a comparable expert somehow connected to Corrections Canada but he or she must be out to lunch.

Don’t get me wrong, the treatment of turkeys is important to me. Turkeys deserve dignity and respect if we are going to smother them with gravy. There can be no doubt that these are “disturbing images”, unlike a solitary cell with a mentally ill inmate shackled to his cot and his toilet full of urine and more.

“Mercy for Animals Canada has also filed a complaint with the Ontario Provincial Police, which has launched a criminal investigation. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) is also investigating.” My Turkey a la King will be much easier to swallow knowing we have these agencies and that they have powers and are so willing to act on behalf of turkeys.

“There’s not much being done right now and it’s a major concern” says Geoff Urton with the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The turkeys themselves must be buoyed knowing something is being done and we have agencies and police forces in each province able to advocate and intervene.

“Ultimately, there should be some kind of proactive inspection and monitoring compliance system in Canada. Otherwise, how can anybody know how these animals are being treated?” Seemingly, words right out of my mouth.

“A 2009 Harris Decima poll commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (I forgot to mention that many cities have their own agencies in case the provincial ones drop the ball) found that 72 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they were willing to pay more for meat that was certified humane.” I wonder what the numbers would be regarding humans that are kept in cages. Human and humane seem to go together but we seem quite concerned when it is denied what is and always will be a bird.

Duncan says:”…the general public, I think if they see something like this, they’re going to be absolutely horrified. Horrified that this is how their food is being produced.”

I’ve been advocating for the humane treatment of inmates with mental illness for a while now. I guess the answer is to have those with mental illness fill their pockets with peas and pour gravy over themselves.

Enjoy your supper but be careful not to choke on the irony.

What I Learned In Jail

Corrections in General

What we pass onto prisoners through the justice and correctional system returns to the street.

Treatment in = treatment out

If we expose people in prison to unsafe conditions why would they care to contribute to a safe society on the outside? If we are inhumane or uncaring how can we expect them to be otherwise? If we allow them the opportunity to be brutal on the inside of a prison it should be no surprise to find them brutal when they are released.

We can agree jail should be a place of denial and punishment but to interject humanity or respect only makes one more mindful of their shortcomings regarding the same.

When we separate a prisoner from society normally what happens is they create their own society. There is a separate code, culture and hierarchy and this would often include” heavies” (inmates who would control what they could). This culture continues to exist in the mind of many released inmates.

While at the Ontario Correctional Institute (OCI) there was no real hierarchy and no heavies. Our behaviours mirrored more closely how people would carry themselves on the outside.

Hierarchies spawn violence. People fight for the top, or peck at those unfortunate enough to be on the bottom. I also believe it would diminish a portion of recidivism. I am not educated in the psychology of crime but for some prisoners they feel they have a higher significance and importance in jail. Anecdotally, the returning prisoners I was familiar with were those who thrived in jail, those who were above others in the hierarchy. For some, being in jail is a status boost.

If you can eliminate the hierarchy there is less social and psychological benefit to risking your freedom through criminal activity. For some, crime becomes a no-loss scenario.

1)      Chance of gain in the crime

2)      Social gain in returning to a situation where power and control (that would otherwise be unattainable) are obtained

The institutional hierarchy is mimicked by the inmates. One person walks around like they own the place and the rest fall in line according to loyalty, familiarity or criminal charge. Rather than years or service or specialty a prisoner leads by force and manipulation. We use what we are charged with as the only means of status. The pedophile could be strong and smart but never will they have status which renders them powerless. At OCI the pedophile could be democratically lifted from their position. A charge had no bearing on whether you were in charge of TV programming or janitorial duties. It allowed each prisoner a means to be something more. When someone is elected to a position a personal best must also be a communal best. When inmates depend on each other they respect each other. The more inmates manage themselves the more they value their surroundings and each other. With a concrete system with which to build a society and community within corrections, inmates can maintain a workable humane safe system.

The “heavies” on the units need to be the Correctional Officers (CO). The COs must set the tone and rules. There should be no difference between justice and prisoner justice. In my experience some are fine with the idea of prisoner’s doling out justice on each other but it is inhumane. I am reminded of the Romans throwing humans to lions. Each unit has a lion, a heavy. All prisoners are prone to being beaten (or eaten) when there is unsupervised leadership among the inmates. Cut the head off the lion. The institution should be the leader and any leadership among the inmates should be democratic and supervised.

If we want prisoners to return to society and follow rules… the best place to teach them is in jail. Prisoners need a reality in jail that better serves their reformation and society as a whole. Prisoners need simple tools to better themselves. We have to impart on them a degree of self-worth or they have nothing to lose. We need to refashion some of how they relate and what they believe. Once they are released they are vulnerable to financial stresses, relationship stresses, temptation and addiction. If they exit without learning new ways of relating re-entry to jail is more likely.

Higher penalties while incarcerated

There needs to be more consequence for misdeeds while incarcerated. It is pointless to hold offenders to justice in the first place if there is none while they are in jail. We double speed fines in construction zones so why not double the penalty for infractions while in jail? A crime on government property could have a harsher sentence?

Safety and Surveillance

When a guard or correctional officer (CO) is among prisoners it may potentially place the guard in danger but it offers a degree of safety and security otherwise unattainable. Guards are more likely to intercept contraband and weapons. They will be able to identify problem prisoners and can administer to that individual. Having guards in close proximity would enable the CO to maintain order and identify prisoners with special needs. A CO could become an assessment tool in classifying prisoners and diverting those in need of more security, health services, treatment, segregation etc.

Preventing a fight or beating by being present to de-escalate arguments is safer than rushing onto the unit to break one up already in progress. The units I spent most of my time in were in the Sarnia Detention Centre. They were basically cages. When trouble was finally detected COs had to open two doors to separate a fight or end a beating. Most of it would have been preventable by simply having a guard on the outside of the cage to watch us. Instead, they sat in a hallway with the door to noise and news closed. In my opinion some COs are responsible for the violence that can happen through complacency. They understand the prisoner code and many are covertly supportive of it.

If a CO was closer they could overhear conversations and be able to immediately intervene or alert more guards to help them with the situation. We need COs trained in de-escalating and diffusing violent situations.

If two guards are present a signal can go out for extra personnel at the first sign of trouble rather than in the midst of it.

Prior to placement if an offender is classed as violent through conviction or past record they may be more appropriately placed.

The x-ray machines I saw at Toronto South Detention Centre ensure that no weapons enter. If there is no contraband which is achievable through these x-ray chairs, the unit becomes safe to both inmate and guard. My experience with jails is that the response time for additional officers is between five and fifteen seconds. With a guard viewing the inmates at all times a fight or beating should only last as long. Two officers become six quickly. If they can interact they will prevent even that.

Surveillance in jails should be complete. In the forensic system I was viewable on camera except in private spaces.  Privacy can be suspended in the name of security. If we have the right to strip an inmate naked do we not have the right to watch them do almost everything else? Cameras don’t eliminate violence but they can prevent it.

Toronto South seemed ideal from a security standpoint; two officers on the actual unit with one guard in the tower watching over the area.

No one has time to consider their wrongs or take responsibility and work towards improvement when they must remain alert to their surroundings for safety.

At OCI, I had a desk and felt safe so I was able to learn about myself. I devoured self-help books as I struggled with my illness. The pages didn’t alter my symptoms but I have been altered. I wrote part of my book in the form of letters from jail. If a unit is in any way unsafe I would not sit with my focus on words home. If we can make units safe we have an environment where programming and prisoner improvement can take place.

Prisoner Violence

If we are complacent regarding violence and prisoner justice it detracts from taking offence at crime to begin with. If we subject prisoners to a lawless community our communities are subjected to the same when the same attitudes and behaviors are released.

Many crimes are rooted in not relating well with people. When an inmate is exposed to inappropriate interactions it reinforces existing deficiencies. If an answer to argument is a fist it will land you in jail where the fist is still the answer to argument. We are releasing people with experience in further lawlessness. It should be the opposite if we expect results from our investment in their lives.

It makes no sense to process prisoners with the same disregard we fault them for. People learn best by being shown. It can be with words or more active. If we demonstrate a degree of respect toward inmates they can learn what it is, use it amongst themselves and share it with the families and communities they return to.

At OCI a democratic and just community was built by the institution. Most adhered to it and those that didn’t were simply removed. If we build a community where inmates can practice living thoughtfully they can recognize the importance of the same on the outside.

News from the street enters the jail and news of the jail enters the street. Prisoners can reach people regardless of which side of the bars they are on. A fight or argument in jail doesn’t always end there. The prisoner culture spills into our communities.

We want prisoners to have respect. To allow brute force and manipulation to run a unit proves our disregard and furthers the cycle of disrespect.

Privileges, Programming and Responsibilities

I spent roughly a year at OCI in Brampton. I will share some of my perceptions.

It needs to be said that had I not experienced detention centres I would be unaware of the positives I experienced at OCI. For me, a toilet seat and a real knife and fork were worth behaving for. I’m not being flippant when I say if you offered me a cheeseburger for every month I behaved, I would have waxed the deputy superintendent’s car every frosty morning. It doesn’t have to be much to encourage positive behaviour and behaviour modification.

With privileges, good behaviour can be rewarded and anchored to the positive. With increased privileges on the horizon an inmate has cause to do well. A privilege provides two reasons to comply with conditions and commands. An inmate wants to do well so they are not demoted to a lower level of privilege and they are also compliant so they can advance to the next level.

With the deprivation of incarceration comes economical and simple means of reward: the TV could be left on an hour longer; thirty minutes more sleep on Sunday; a jug of watered down coffee for the unit.

In Sarnia an inmate would sweep and mop the guard’s walkway for a jug of coffee. I cleaned an entire unit and moved mattresses just for the sake of having something to do. For me it was quite an honour. Normally a guard would choose the “heavy” and blindly reinforce the hierarchy.

A person can learn healthier habits through positive reinforcement. At OCI I was the secretary for a spiritual program that we crowded for. I kept attendance and if three or more sessions of the 16-week program were missed a person would not receive their certificate. I was a stickler for details at the time and had several irate inmates on my heels when they did not receive their certificate. I saw it as an interesting piece of paper but some viewed it as an accomplishment. Those inmates didn’t come to each session but they came to enough hoping for a certificate.

An extra hour of TV can be viewed as a means to escape hardship. It not only motivates the inmate personally if he wants to watch TV but he also becomes responsible for his fellow inmates sharing the same pleasure. If you are the one who fails to ensure the TV time – you have to answer to your fellow inmates. Extra TV time at OCI was the reward for smooth unit operations. If we failed cleanliness we lost the privilege.

When I spoke at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) it was in an unused gymnasium. With the purchase of a basketball well behaved inmates could gain five minutes to themselves in the gym. The supervised solitude will diffuse tensions and for those active some testosterone could be expended.

Access to freedom is a tool of reform. To deny it is punishment enough and to measure levels of relief provides the opportunity to create co-operation. If inmates co-operate they can witness their own importance and the importance of others.

Privileges provide some hope and in terms of treatment the optimism alone speeds progress. Jail is often hopeless having little to do or little to look forward to. If an inmate has hope they may be less prone to violence.

When each inmate has a duty for the unit they can learn responsibility, gain a sense of self efficacy and a sense of belonging.

When the lower inmate is able to advance it is a signal to those who think they are better that all have value. If everyone has value it dissolves the hierarchy.

The use of protective custody (PC) and general population (GP) creates safety through segregation but also animosity. Inmates are within reach of certain inmates through communication and connections so safety can be compromised. The GPs considered those in PC to be rats, thieves and sex offenders. As such all were looked down on and in situations where segregation fails those in protective custody are in danger. At OCI there was no PC or GP and as such the hierarchy it creates was non-existent. In some form it enhanced the safety of the institution.

I was in PC for much of my incarceration. I ended up in cells with GP, they saw me and many would know what unit I was on. We were transported together and would see each other as we accessed the yard. Any prisoner is reachable.

I saw several fights in PC and was a witness to a beating so in my estimation it is already failing to be what its name insinuates.

At OCI there was no PC. The only segregation was between new arrivals in the assessment area and the offenders already classified to units. When I was in regular jails the threat of violence coated most days. OCI was safe because non-violence was a condition of the privilege of inhabiting humane, respectful and progressive living conditions.

No one comes clean in dirty water.

We need to dismantle how inmates gain their self-esteem and replace it with socially acceptable measures. We want them to gain their esteem by behaving not by bullying and manipulating. We want them to gain their esteem by cooperating and contributing.

Portions of my mental health and corrections journey included the use of privileges. When medicine and the law intertwine privilege can be a level of security and is progressive. Inmates that are a risk can at any point be placed in the most secure setting and inmates who are doing well can be advanced.

OCI and the forensic hospital in St. Thomas (formally Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas, now Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care) were the safest and most humane of the institutions I experienced. OCI had a zero tolerance policy regarding violence. OCI had many amenities worth behaving for. If a prisoner violated a certain rule they could be transferred back to a detention centre. Detention centres are the harshest to be in and have less comforts, opportunities and treatment.

Another rule at OCI was participation in programming and treatment. We had Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, General Addictions and an array of spiritual services administered by permanent staff and supported by volunteers. Participation in spiritual programming was widespread, though voluntary. It was a change of setting or a break to the monotony for some but for others seeds were planted. Personally, spirituality was one of the most important aspects of my rehabilitation and recovery, something that I didn’t have when I entered the system.

More importance could have been placed on programming. It is unlikely the rooms I saw at Toronto South for programs such as AA will work. There is no anonymity with windows into the room and the children’s chairs are humiliating in themselves. If programming can be mandatory after sentencing all sentenced inmates could begin with AA. Those without substance problems will learn about and appreciate the struggles of those who do. Participation in programming is an escape from the monotony and is often embraced for that alone.

Volunteers are a link to the “outside” and I found self-worth in the fact of their presence. Volunteers can be a link while incarcerated but connections can carry into the community providing continued supports when the prisoner is released. Most of the programs at OCI were maintained by volunteers.

A six week exposure to anger management will not benefit every inmate and others would resist but numerous others would benefit.

Spirituality

I would be little of what I am today were it not for being ministered to throughout my journey. I gained my faith within institutions and if I have nothing else this would be enough. If an inmate has faith they face and overcome what they might not otherwise. We should not push religion on this group but if we make access to spirituality attractive the nectar will stick to some and change lives.

 

 

Early Intervention

I am the million dollar man. I have spent three years in correctional facilities, two years hospitalized and five years monitored in the community. The five years I spent incarcerated amount to approximately $550,000 dollars and that gets added to the cost of my community treatment. In my estimation it would have been cheaper to have a worker follow me from a young age and it would have been advantageous for me and the system to have had intervention before I cost over $300/day. A mental health worker paid $60,000/year could have spent over 18 years seeing me for four hours a day. That same mental health worker could spend one hour a day with me for 70 years.

I think if there was one person who was assigned to my mental health journey I may have avoided the courts. I didn’t receive the intensive treatment I required until I was in my thirties and there were periods I was not in receipt of treatment or oversight.

I sometimes wonder if that time and money was spent when I was younger if I would have avoided everything.

Educational Supports

In my experience many inmates struggled with various degrees of illiteracy. I personally assisted a couple of inmates with reading and writing letters. It is sad to sit next to someone who hasn’t the ability to experience such an integral part of existence. I’m not sure how these adults navigated the educational system without procuring the ability to read.

When an inmate is incarcerated it presents the state with another opportunity to teach literacy. Possibly volunteers could be called on to assist in passing on this basic skill. Literacy could be conditional for those who need it and it could be encouraged and advanced through the issuance of simple privileges.

Inmates could be called on to assist each other in literacy creating cooperation and self-worth in both teacher and student. We can poke and prod this segment of society to become gainfully employed and contribute but illiteracy is a hindrance at best. These individuals are not stupid and could embrace society and normalcy more easily if they could navigate the written word. A criminal record is difficult to overcome but illiteracy is an obstacle that will only be moved by education.

Inmates need access to the raw materials for self-improvement. I took Bible correspondence courses during portions of my incarceration. I don’t see why these voluntary programs couldn’t include secular members of the community. One suggestion may be teacher colleges including marking inmate attempts at equivalencies. My exposure to schooling while incarcerated included a woman who came weekly to the Sarnia jail. I was quite psychotic and she assisted me beyond academics. While at OCI I mainly attempted to gain a typing credit with a teacher who worked half days. While we have prisoners in our grasp we may as well mold them. What if for those who have failed the public system we now take the time to instill knowledge and the ability to gain skills; skills that pay taxes and build communities. Lack of education and skills may not lead to criminality but they anchor most inmates to the cycle of crime.

If I am a better person I can’t help but be a better citizen. I was twice confined to Sarnia Detention Centre and I saw several familiar faces on my return. Many of the guards were familiar with about a third of the detainees. The repeat offender may hold less promise of participation and success but there are few beyond hope.

Better citizens add to public safety rather than perpetually compromising it. If we are paying to house these inmates we might as well do something with the housing and food we provide. There would be less educators teaching in other countries if they could safely do so within corrections. Make it a paid internship. They gain experience and the province economical labour. Obviously I’m just spitballing but there must be ways to institute inmate improvement in an economically feasible fashion. Even at an expense it might prove profitable in the long term. I understand fiscal responsibility but if a government doesn’t invest in the longer term they will balance a broken society.

Some inmates will not amount to much on the street. Corrections could incorporate measures to change this.

Uniforms

I can identify a guard as being similar to myself when they are out of uniform. Many inmates associate and resent the uniform regardless of who it is on. I can imagine a guard as having a life outside of the jail. If an inmate can view a correctional officer as more of a person they are better able to identify with them. Prisoners recognize that other prisoners have relationships and family but a guard is a guard to them. Just as the guard judges us as criminals we judge them as something even less. There is a barrier between guard and inmate which limits the amount of respect that passes between the two. If guards become caseworkers their assistance will be recognized as that. They will still be the ones with the keys but they will unlock the potential that lies within many inmates.

This places more value and respect on them in my opinion. When we see the uniform it is a reminder of where we are, when see clothes on a person, they are exactly that. Clothes on a person. If a correctional officer is also recognized as a person not just an authority figure the respect and cross identification between inmate and guard might create a more secure and safe environment for both guards and inmates. If a CO becomes someone I can know, they become someone who can set an example for me. I will not mimic that which I despise.

The majority of the justice system wears a uniform. If I was dealt harshly by someone in a robe or bruised by a badge, your uniform is part of the same and if I am looking for any revenge it might often do. You become part of why I may be suffering. The pain, stress or confusion involved with the system is taken out on uniforms. Without the uniform the officer becomes less a beacon of my plight. If most prisoners have no respect for the uniform why are they worn?

At OCI the COs often wore street clothes. It was the first time I fully recognized them as quite like me. I was wearing an orange uniform which offered enough of a distinction between us. They were as visible among us and in the same sense stood out in a different way. I saw each officer in both street clothes and uniforms and my respect did not differ.

At OCI we were encouraged and at times mandated to speak with our correctional offer/caseworker. The person with the most potential of being a positive influence is the correctional officer. In a regular correctional facility to be seen speaking too much with a correctional officer creates a dangerous situation. Other inmates can infer that they are being “ratted on”.

Keep in mind there is usually an underlying mistrust of most correctional officers.

Corrections and Mental Health

Mental illness is an illness

Mental health services in the community are not always accessible because of funding and or stigma. When an individual with diabetes enters the justice system he or she will have access to medicine. Their blood will be tested as required etc. When an individual with a mental illness enters the justice system they should have equal access to treatment for a medically identifiable illness.

When I was found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) my treatment became law. Equal access is the right thing and would be a healthy blow to stigma. Not many people lose the ability to perceive reality and are found NCR. I do believe mental illness is enmeshed in many other crimes. We need only consider crimes to which alcohol or drugs were a contributing factor.

We can still punish the offender but it makes the most sense to treat them. I saw a fellow rearrested within several hours of his release. He was an addict. He was an intelligent upbeat and humourous person but he was a prisoner on both sides of the bars. If he entered a 30-day drug or alcohol treatment program as he served his sentence he may not stay sober but it might help. These are fallen citizens who may never vote but whose hand we must grasp because we will be called to account for knowing that hand was there.

We do not tell those with diabetes they must suffer because they are a criminal and we mustn’t say it to those with depression, schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder. If there is any link between mental illness and the crime we have cause and duty to treat the illness.

Assessment and treatment of mental illness and addictions in jail

We don’t have to build hospitals to treat a significant number of citizens with mental health challenges. The correctional system provides an opportunity to assess and treat mental illnesses which are becoming too costly to ignore. Mandatory participation in treatment is easily enforced. Individuals are observable 24/7 to better assess and treat. They are being fed and housed already. OCI in Brampton would be suitable with minor modification to deal with mentally ill inmates. Mentally ill offenders should be treated regardless. To not treat them is costly, irresponsible and contributes to stigma. We can’t deny a prisoners access to therapeutic measures and proper mental health care.

Even a 30-day sentence would provide enough time to assess. Community supports and conditions could be incorporated through the probation system. Probation is often a three year duration which might provide the teeth to institute and carry on with treatment beyond the facility. While I was in the hospital forensic system I could be called on at any time to submit to drug and alcohol testing. If a dirty urine sample sends you back to jail it is reason to remain clean. If we conscript participation in community programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and can keep an inmate clean for three years I suspect it would contribute to public safety and provide a sober person to incorporate back into the community.

If one in five probation officers is versed in mental health they could administer to community treatment adherence and be a regular assessment tool.

We owe it to our communities at least to ensure that when an inmate is released whether they suffer from schizophrenia or addiction that they have been treated.

If my mental illness was better assessed and treated while I was at OCI I may have not entered the forensic system. The year I was there would have been ample to get a better handle on my illness.

Accommodations can be minimal for any offender but the mentally ill offender requires the opportunity of solitude and a degree of mercy and compassion.

Segregation

Segregation should be a last resort – not an only option.

Segregation is used as punishment for misdeeds in jail – but an extension of a prisoner’s sentence would be more impactful. Even those who do well in jail look forward to and count on release. Many would not risk further time. Those that do are a problem prisoner and could be managed otherwise. Most do not experience segregation so its threat is obscure. To be given more time is comprehendible as a threat.

I often lament the use of segregation but my personal growth, in part, sprung from the deprivation I experienced. Deprivation gives rise to insights otherwise difficult to obtain. It is punishment and can be used as such where appropriate but the mentally ill offender is better served in a different setting. Seclusion can alleviate acute symptoms in the short term but is detrimental in the long term.

From a prisoner’s perspective justice and corrections is a maze no one in particular cares if you make it through. If I can see a correction officer’s purpose as that of assisting me it lessens animosity. An inmate may resent someone having authority over them but if the correctional officer is helping that too can be overcome.

Corrections should be an avenue of reform and rehabilitation.

 

 

Diversion and Community Supports

Mental Health Courts and Diversion are necessary but mainly tinsel if they do not bring about the services and treatment necessary to in fact divert the offender from further contact with the justice system. Had my diversion lead to something remotely like the hospital forensic system in terms of treatment and compliance I may have never entered the correctional system. The money spent could have been a better placed $30,000 hospital visit.

I believe it is in the public’s interest to administer more in community support to individuals on a mental health journey. If I was prescribed a worker to follow up on me I would have more likely been truly diverted from the justice system. It could have been a daily phone call. If it was a person I already had a therapeutic relationship with I would have trusted enough to convey what was happening to me and I would have a ready contact for how best to get help. If I could access supports through this individual it would coordinate care and supervision of that care. One person could have access to my complete history to best determine what was presently appropriate.

Portions of my incarceration were inappropriate and at times no one was aware of my challenges. People who are psychotic/deemed NCR, or otherwise acutely ill, should be in a hospital setting as they would be for an acute physical illness.

Hospital Forensic System

When I look back on my mental health experiences I see compassionate well trained professionals but some of it seemed haphazard. The forensic system was the best worst thing to happen to me. It was the exception. It has flaws but it was the first time I was exposed to intense and comprehensive treatment.

I can understand not wanting people occupying hospital beds but it makes no sense to provide the care when a person commits a crime – the care should take place before it happens.

Accessible and proper mental health care could reduce the numbers in the forensic system. If an illness is being monitored and managed it is less likely to result in some of the tragedies we hear about. Forensic patients are not punished so the fact that their recidivism rate is so low can mainly be linked to the fact that deterrence lies in treatment. If treatment can be used to deter future conflict it only makes sense to provide it as early as possible. For some it is far too late after the crime.

If we continue to do as budgets allow and be fiscally responsible, we will not progress. In the short term it appears as fiscally responsible but when I consider the repetitive nature of my mental health journey and of the many others I have witnessed it is only truly fiscally responsible to properly address the problems to begin with.

With the use of Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, those at risk can be managed in their own homes with little call on the taxpayer. Community treatment is more therapeutic and it allows the client to remain enmeshed in their families and communities; both assist in immeasurable ways and further reduce leaning on the taxpayer.

If we could compare a typical mental health journey to a boat with a leak – what I experienced was like taping up the hole. When I was in crisis I had a piece of tape placed on my life and I was returned to sea. It is expensive to take the boat from the water and properly fix the damage but until that happens we will be buying tape and citizens will suffer individually and collectively. Tape doesn’t fix the hole.

NCR offenders will never be eliminated but they can be reduced if comprehensive treatment is applied to those most vulnerable. Most of the forensic patient stories I am familiar with included the application of mental health services before the offence. If these individuals are coming into conflict with the law after and or during the application of mental health services it points to a gap.

Early Education

In my youth psychiatrists were secrets. I was taught how mountains were formed but not how emotions are formed.

I believe we can convey to youth what stigma is, how it is perpetuated, its consequences and we can challenge them to be the generation to eradicate it.

In the 70s and 80s we had exposure to some health curriculum. We had dental hygienists come into the classroom to teach us how to brush our teeth but I don’t recall information about the mental side of my health. A mental health worker could stand in front of the same class to inform youth about mental health.

If we are exposed to the correct information at a young age we are able to filter future truths. Stigma is an attitude attached to distorted thoughts which are anchored in misinformation. If the proper information is presented much of the fear which feeds stigma will be eliminated. If the emotion of fear is challenged by knowledge it can be lessened so when we are exposed to mental illness in our neighbourhoods and communities we can be more rational about what we are witnessing and those experiencing it will be more apt to find help. If fear is eliminated it leaves room for respect, compassion and empathy.

We can teach youth mental hygiene.

If youth are exposed to various mental health professionals and other knowledgeable citizens they will know where to turn if they or a friend need assistance. With education they may recognize their own difficulties and seek early treatment. When mental health is talked about in the classroom it is talked about around dinner tables. Youth can carry information to people who may have passed by the pamphlets.

If a mental health worker is a regular visitor they become a familiar face for someone who may need mental health services in the community. The mental health worker can be the link between our schools and mental health services in the community.

Most of my exposure to mental health information has come from experience and self-education. Knowledge doesn’t alter symptoms but it relieves the stigma which is at times worse.

I do not think we would create a generation of mental health hypochondriacs any more than a Heart and Stroke Foundation presentation would lead to strokes.

I believe mental health education can be presented in a meaningful and interesting fashion. The more that is done to inform people about mental illness the more stigma is combated. If stigma is reduced it creates a more therapeutic environment for all mental health consumers. The results will spill from our classrooms into our homes and communities. If a gate is left open something will get through. Education is a gate that needs to be opened to mental health. When we educate our youth we educate society.

Lack of mental health education perpetuates stigma. If a government makes mental health education a priority it brings mental health itself to the forefront. It is a signal to all citizens that mental health is a priority and that your approach as a government is to expose mental illness for what it is. Making mental health education a priority fights stigma.

It is achievable to create a generation which spreads accurate information and the understanding, compassion and empathy that it enables.

To not educate our youth has costs as well. People resist seeking treatment because of the stigma. Illnesses progress untreated increasing social and economic costs. The cost in terms of suicide alone is incalculable. If we can get people to seek help early the chaos that springs from illness can be managed.

Mental health knowledge strengthens the fabric of communities by incorporating the legitimacy of mental illness. If my illness is understood and accepted I can contribute in a more meaningful way and find support in the community. Understanding undermines the isolation of mental illness.

90 Days

When a prisoner is incarcerated health care becomes the responsibility of the government. Individuals in jails and prisons are neutered of any capability to seek out or enlist assistance.  When we are dealing with individuals with mental health concerns, availing oneself of health care is often not within the capabilities of the offender as symptoms often further reduce an inmate’s ability to vocalize and enlist assistance. If an individual is incapable of insight into their illness they are also incapable of being proactive with regards to their health. It then becomes imperative for the authorities to institute conditions and opportunities to address the needs of the offender.

The conservative government thinks they are dealing appropriately with the mental health needs of inmates by ensuring “proper” mental health screening takes place within 90 days. Would a similar time frame be acceptable to Canadians if we were speaking about a physical illness? An inmate with diabetes, heart disease or many other conditions could in fact perish with the same concern. Mental illness seems less fatal but within the prison population it can easily be just that. I was two steps from being beaten with the symptoms and delusions I experienced while incarcerated.

Some prisoners are prone to manipulation and bullying and the mentally ill make for easy prey. Thankfully, I was taken under the wing of prisoners who ruled the units I was held in. They let me sit at their table and were instrumental in my weight loss program. My meals were divided and through delusion my liquid intake consisted of licking my hands when I washed them. Weight Watchers was financially not an option so I am forever grateful.

It seems incongruent that members of parliament almost end up with a pension after 90 days while those with mental health care needs are exposed to the same time frame for assessment. It is further incredulous that after 90 days solitary confinement can be considered treatment. MP’s would wet themselves after two days but the mentally ill are expected to endure as they hold no value after the handcuffs are fastened.

When an inmate is first processed they are given a Tuberculosis test within the first 24 hours. If the overall health of the prison population can be compromised by a physical illness is it not realistic to assume mental health matters are as important? As Canadians we would be alarmed if a broken bone was considered important within a 90 day time frame but we go about our merry way when mental health concerns are dealt with in this fashion.

We can be pleased and comfortable that these issues affect prisoners but the stigma leaks into our communities and infects and affects all who are touched by mental illness. The conservative approach is a display of unhealthy and unacceptable attitudes; it is stigma in action cemented in policy. It is an affront to Canadian values and it is disgraceful. There are hundreds of organizations and countless individuals who devote resources to combating what the conservative government institutes as policy.

Some would say I have gone too far in calling conservatives immoral. If it is moral to expose individuals with a mental illness to conditions which exasperate their illnesses, I stand corrected. We are not mending the broken bone but insisting prisoners walk with fractures. A tough on crime policy is misguided but when it becomes a tough on mental illness policy it becomes an affront to every Canadian affected by mental illness.

This Is What Stigma Looks Like

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Manitoba’s senior federal cabinet minister Shelly Glover seems to think her expertise extends to and should influence decisions made by a Review Board. I Googled Shelly Glover and noticed discriminatory dimples but no association, affiliation or education regarding mental health let alone forensic mental health. She doesn’t appear to be a lawyer, a psychiatrist or anyone who might be informed enough to comment on a decision made by a Review Board. Like the other politicians who have jumped on the decision her only qualification appears to be ignorance and stigma. Stigma is everywhere but when it becomes entrenched in a political party its effects shift from being individual to being systemic and collective.

MP Shelly Glover is a patrol sergeant with the Winnipeg Police Service on leave to promote conservative rhetoric. I’m assuming when she was working she left the application of justice to experts. She seems to have not been involved in the arrest of Vincent Li and I can see no formal footing to involve herself now. It is politically advantageous to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong but it is a public disservice. Her words are stigma. I rather doubt Shelly Glover had much to say to crown attorneys, judges and psychiatrists when she knew her job. Her influence as a police officer was to gather and present evidence. As a police officer she served everyone not her specific ideas, interpretations and in this case miscalculations.

The Manitoba government, specifically Premier Greg Selinger said he is opposed to the decisions made by the Review Board. Mr. Selinger made his comments from Toronto where he was attending an energy conference. We need experts like Greg Selinger here in Ontario. We need politicians with enough knowledge and expertise in energy matters that we can also call on to question complicated medical and legal proceedings.

These politicians are tripping over themselves to denounce a single extraordinary case not because of any failings in the rehabilitation of Mr. Li but to garner votes. Unfortunately, many Canadians are as informed as Stephen Harper, Peter McKay, Shelly Glover, and Greg Selinger. One day politicians will do what is useful for Canadians rather than their political aspirations. If these individuals cared about stigma, mental health or even justice, they would calm constituents rather than rally their misconceptions and ignorance into political gain.

Discrimination can be policies, ideas, practices and laws. Mr. Li has a mental disability. He has schizophrenia. How we view and adjudicate to Mr. Li is not only an act towards him but an act towards his illness. Mr. Li’s crime was disturbing but we must step to the side of our reactions and separate the individual from the illness. We can see the crime but we must recognize what is a symptom. A symptom is not a choice and guilt is not the act but the act of knowing. It has been proven Mr. Li could not appreciate the nature of the act. When we can recognize the symptom it enables us to see the person.

Mr. Li has been receiving comprehensive and intense treatment from a multidisciplinary team for 6 years. It is possible that he has improved to the point where small privileges and freedoms do not present a risk to the public. Hundreds of others have progressed in the same way. The circumstances of a crime have no bearing on the effects of rehabilitation. If the disturbing circumstances influence or interfere with rehabilitation it must also hold true that the non-disturbing circumstances also influence and interfere with rehabilitation. The time, location or even what a person was wearing must also influence rehabilitation.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay is quick to point out his involvement with victim groups. Has he ever met with anyone found Not Criminally Responsible? Has he ever sat down with their families? When a government is making laws around any issue it is our right as citizens that the entire situation is considered. There are few votes among the individuals and families who are linked to the accused. The Conservative government must recognize that justice is not politics. Justice is not a vote.

Tomato

When I was allowed off the forensic unit I lived in, one of my accompanied destinations became the greenhouse. It was always a pleasure to be in the greenhouse. It was connected to the hospital so it was like Eden at the end of a hallway. I`m not sure how I didn’t bump into anything on early occasions as I glanced through windows each with a new view. New horizons. I tended many plants and grew many of my own. I can recall the warmth of the area and the light but some of the experience was lost on me. In some sense of reality the dimensions of the building itself added considerable square footage to my world. I don’t recall the scheduling of visits but I wouldn’t be surprised if I mentioned to my therapist that the plants were due for some water.

I could forget myself there without the cameras and as a good friend might say avail myself of meaningful and fulfilling occupation. I was doing something that didn’t have to be shuffled and dealt. I was blind to the balm but can remember the face of the staff member who applied it.

In the spring we reclaimed an area of weeds and weeds. I planted some tomatoes there that I had started from seed. I remember one sunny day taking the shortcut across the grounds as we were only there for tending the tomatoes outside. There were three of us. A clinician and a female patient who was newer to the unit. She seemed a little bewildered and was very quiet. There was one ripe tomato and I held it long in my hand like a hungry man and handed it to this woman. I watched her tear into it like an apple. It is a little hard to enjoy a tomato from three feet away but in this case it was a little hard not to. I smiled as she devoured it. I wanted that tomato and it may have even been a first but I`m glad I gave it away. Before I gave it to her I didn’t know her hunger.

Mustard

The media perpetuate stigma because the stories they posses and seek are the sensational. As consumers of media we are part of the problem. We don’t care much about the mayor of Calgary; we want to see the mustard on Mayor Rob Ford.

I was at a restaurant with friends and our seats were elevated next to a window looking down on patrons eating outside. I was glancing out at their plates as I was somewhat seized with hunger. A table with pasta belonged to a man in a tie and the back of a woman. On a future glance my friend looked out with me and sighed at the fact this man was eating alone. My friend is not wrong for the assumption; they simply do not possess enough information to draw an accurate conclusion. The conclusions we are given by the media contain the history of our appetite for the sensational.

We make conclusions because they keep us safe but they are not all factual or complete. We make mental shortcuts and apply the smallest of information to anything of resemblance. Not Criminally Responsible is likely about three images for many people. The term for some draws only information from the media.

Guilt is not the act but the act of knowing. When someone is found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder it is because experts have found that they could not appreciate the nature of the act or omission. They are not sentenced according to a code of punishment but are placed under forensic mental health care. Forensic mental health facilities are secure, humane, progressive and therapeutic. Interdisciplinary teams were used for my progression through my rehabilitation and treatment. These facilities are hospitals and not jails because Not Criminally Responsible offenders are not criminals they are patients. They require not our judgement or fear but rather our assistance.

It is not a chosen path so it makes no sense to punish the traveler for being where they are.

It is difficult for many to reconcile illness with atrocity. It needs to be kept in mind that without the illness there may have been no crime. We recognize the defendant but we cannot see the culprit. The culprit is mental illness.

Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defense. If I had my way I would have been a brilliant lawyer at my own trial. It was a defense of default for me. I was incapable of any other defense. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. If we are to be merciful it is imperative we do not punish illness. It is pointless and cruel.

If it is an eye for an eye, Christ`s words were wasted.

Touch

I sat in on a presentation on sexuality among mental health patients. The whole topic is a little like making love to a Porcupine. There are many points to consider. I wasn’t as fortunate as some patients but there was certainly sexuality among us. I can remember smoking and drinking coffee while people rolled on a blanket in front of me kissing. I enjoyed the coffee more. There were certain stairwells that were considered intimate no matter the weather. We were also blessed with a well treed knoll on the hospital property. We called it “Pecker Hill.” Even when I was not well the naming was evident and amusing. I know of one poor individual who didn’t quite make it to the hill and found ecstasy among the long grass not far away but apparently far enough.

We can laugh or shake a finger but I was without an intimate encounter for 7 years. I don’t know about the 7 year itch but I wallowed in the 7 year rash. Had the opportunity presented itself to me I’m not sure I would have made it to the long grass.

The World Health Organization defines sexual health as a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Being on a locked ward for me was just that. If my footsteps had boundaries you can imagine the same on my sexuality.

I can remember being on the Forensic Assessment Unit on a vacation from jail. One day I walked by the common area and saw a hairdresser giving a patient a haircut. I was months without a trim and was eager to find out how this all worked. I paced by a few times and finally asked if I needed an appointment or money both of which I was without. I needed neither and when I sat down I was astonished by being touched. Usually you check how much hair is falling on the floor but each time my scalp was touched that’s all I could focus on. All my visits for months were from behind glass and my fellow prisoners were not known for hugging.

If we are placing individuals in situations where touch is unlikely it becomes imperative to introduce a healthy replacement. Some in the psychiatric community are unlikely to encounter touch because of their symptoms and or resulting circumstances.

Part of sexuality is a connection. Consider what it would be like to go for months and years without being touched. Even those of us who have the benefit of touch can recognize its power and importance when we visit a massage therapist. The social, mental and physical benefits can only translate into improved mental health and overall well being.

Segregation; the Hole is deprivation of everything. I was psychotic for most of this deprivation but pulled an important truth from the experience. I had a cheap French/English dictionary in my pillowcase. I wrote a note from the Hole to one of the guards who were bilingual. In choppy French I wrote the following:

“I need love and touch I beg you, more.

I’m not crazy or madness, truly yours

I’m tough and strong angel.

Please mention it nay not what

In any manner that push me by heart and has your friendship; we shake on it.

Please mention it nay not what.”

Ashley Smith Homicide

Ashley Smith was a troubled young woman who was allowed to choke herself to death while Correctional Officers looked on with orders not to intervene. I use enough words so I will leave it to Google for the details. This note addresses those responsible for what a jury has now deemed a homicide. One of these people needs to relinquish their uniform for an orange jumpsuit.

It appears you are in a pickle. Those people you thought had no rights are still recognized as human by law. Those being detained are specifically mentioned in the wording of failing to provide the necessities of life. I think you all might want to duck on this one. It is a heartless concession to have those responsible transferred or even terminated but it is poetic justice if you find yourself asking for a request form from the other side of the bars. You will come to appreciate your influence on conditions within institutions. You will also have sense for the regard the justice system will give you. On your journey consider what those same experiences might be like for someone with a mental illness.

We see the Correctional Officers outside Ashley Smith’s cell but the orders come from faces quite hidden. If an officer follows such an order he is compliant in his own submission to hierarchy. That person is a mindless pawn and is sadly led by authority through the curtain of the inhumane. Their adherence to the chain of command even as it means the death of a fellow human is insanely sad. This game of crests, badges and colours is worse than childlike if it results in inhumanity. If you respect your boss to the point of letting someone die you deserve none yourself. And your wage is worthless as it will never buy a lawful excuse for doing so. There should be no chain of command when it comes to decency.

Here in Ontario we have a Humane Society to prevent and prosecute the mistreatment of animals. I could call them tomorrow and say my neighbour has a starving dog tied to a tree and they would send out an officer to investigate. In jail when an inmate is being mistreated they can obtain a “blue letter”. It requires no stamp and can be sealed to override the censor system of the jail. Ironically the guard you have an issue with could be the one who sees it into the mail. This letter goes to the Ombudsman in another city and at times action is taken. My dance with the Ombudsman was weeks in the works and would have been most pointless for someone like Ashley Smith. We need an effective way to ensure mentally ill offenders are dealt with the protections we gladly apply to animals. And we need to come to terms with the fact that an offender may be broken but they are not worthless. Furthermore, I would suggest that those involved trade their uniforms for underwear. It’s the best place for what you most resemble.

Justice Is Blind But We Needn’t Be

When I read a news story I can expect something out of the ordinary in quotes but it is rarer in the measured words of a journalist. Last night I read the online CBC coverage of the Guy Turcotte case. He was found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) in the stabbing deaths of his two children. There was public outcry at this finding and even more when he was released into the community a few years later. It is now again before the courts on appeal. I do not know the case, the man or much else to comment so I will return to our journalist.

The last couple of lines I read the author referred to the conservative government’s reaction to this and other high profile cases as they introduced legislation to make it more difficult for “criminals with mental illness” to be released. I hung on the words criminals with mental illness. Therein lay the misconception. I can forgive the author for being ill informed but I am alarmed that the CBC allows individuals with a rudimentary understanding of mental health law to report on it.

There are criminals with mental illness but most do not make it to the forensic system. A person who is depressed or bi polar is usually processed and administered to the same as any. Someone who is found NCR has been assessed and found that their mental disorder rendered them incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.

NCR individuals are not found guilty because they did not possess mens rhea, a guilty mind. They are referred to as the accused. It can only be stigma to refer to such an individual as a criminal with mental illness. To be referred to as a criminal one has to be found guilty. The journalists few errant words convey a larger sentiment. Many would use the same words. Some of the public outcry is a result of the perception that these people are criminals. One comment I read at the news of appeal was “finally, justice for these children”. That may be the case but at this point in fairness we must also entertain the idea that justice was already served.

We are indignant when someone “gets off” with this NCR “defence”. NCR is in fact a protection for us all. It is a safeguard. We all sleep better knowing if by some terrible fate we find ourselves mixed up with the law unaware of reality, we will be treated rather than punished. An eye for an eye is great unless your blindness is the reason for offence. When we can only find satisfaction in a person being behind bars, we are prisoners ourselves. We are shackled to retribution and a sense of justice rather than justice itself.

“Jails top ombudsman’s concerns”

This headline is from an article I tore out of The Toronto Star on Tuesday, June 25, 2002. I would have used scissors but they were not part of our “kit” at the correctional facility I was incarcerated in.

The article by Richard Brennan begins with “A mentally ill, deaf woman was confined to a segregation cell in an Ontario jail for two months without regular access to a shower or fresh air the province’s ombudsman reported yesterday.”

Within two years I was in the process of being found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder and faced the same. I guess I could be angry looking back on it and the fact that the ombudsman was powerless in her role. I could be angry society saw little need to address the issue. Instead I am saddened that eleven years later we are dealing with the same issue.

Is the problem systemic or societal? The system is seriously flawed if in 11 years we are unable to change. When a mentally ill woman in a jail is subjected to segregation rather than mental health services and society does not scream for answers it smells of stigma. These situations have persisted because our attitudes persist. We still do not perceive mental health as the pivot of overall health.

What is the benefit of making mental illness a joke or using it as a putdown or slang?  We stumble on our own stigma and twist uncomfortably in its shadow when we or a loved one is affected. We are careless with our attitudes and we become prisoners behind the stigma they create.

The ombudsman said the Tories’ hard-line, no frills approach to prisoner care has only exacerbated the problem. The then Public Safety and Security Minister Bob Runciman said jails are not meant to be fun places. These are not county club settings. We’re not the federal government…you do the crime, you do the time. Many of the complaints are frivolous.”

I guess at that time it was acceptable to wash your hands of individuals once they become involved with the justice system. I guess at that time if there were frivolous complaints all could be ignored. I guess back then mental health care was a frill.

Ombudsman Clare Lewis was a voice ignored but I will quote her anyway.

“I’m not asking that people be mollycoddled. But, by golly, if we are going to incarcerate people – and we do in large numbers – then we have an obligation to see that they are treated rationally, with dignity and with some degree of respect.”

 We continue to leave politicians with enough indifference that they do not act. Indifference is stigma in action.

A Message From “OUR” Prime Minister

I have been so busy thinking about how my bank account will swell with this EU Trade Agreement I didn’t take a close look at what Stephen Harper said in the Throne Speech. It all sounded really good as I polished my Brian Mulroney bronze bust but upon closer inspection something seems rotten in the state of Denmark.

“Canadians are rightfully alarmed when violent offenders found Not Criminally Responsible for their actions are released into our communities.”

In fact Stephen, Canadians are alarmed because many are misinformed. It does nothing to help when the government attempts to enshrine stigma into law. The damage is staggering. Shame on you if this is simply a political opportunity to play fiddle to your base whose view of justice is Right but not necessarily so. To ignore information and advice and proceed with this Bill only shows your disregard for people who hold no political promise for you. The mentally disabled.

The existing system for dealing with those deemed not criminally responsible was recently endorsed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. She must be a Liberal eh Stephen. Either that or she actually understands the existing system.

What I find most disturbing about the Throne Speech is your ostracization of the mentally disabled in only one sentence. If you open your mouth and this comes out I can understand your obsession with control of information. Less said Stephen. “Our communities” has the ring of exclusion in a speech I thought started out with something like, “Consider this: we are inclusive. We are 35 million people gathered from every part of the world. We welcome the contribution of all those who inhabit this land—from the first of us to the latest among us.” If one is not found guilty of the crime it can only be their mental illness that would exclude a person from a community.

The communities you refer to Mr. Prime Minister in fact belong also to those afflicted by serious mental illness. The unfortunate consequence of a crime motivated by a disorder of the mind has never and should never exclude those involved. No illness or disability should make someone less than the rest of “us”. These individuals come from “our” communities and with care and caution many fully return.

If we have “our” communities or they are withheld even in language from the mentally ill we needn’t worry about all those words about discrimination in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Section 15 jurisprudence, the equality guarantees of section 15 are aimed at preventing the “violation of essential human dignity and freedom through the imposition of disadvantage, stereotyping, or political and social prejudices, and to promote a society in which all persons enjoy equal recognition at law as human beings or as members of Canadian society, equally capable and equally deserving of concern, respect and consideration.” (Iacobucci J. in Law v. Canada, [1999])

Most individuals found Not Criminally Responsible are legally disabled, often permanently. Mental disability is included in the Equality Rights. When I hear prejudice from the Throne Speech, when I see stigma in your most measured words I fear for everyone I know involved in mental illness. You represent my country Mr. Prime Minister. I hang my head in shame. You may think it only a slight to violent offenders but in fact your words pierce everyone who is touched by mental illness.

I don’t know if the Governor General would have to be in the Senate to apologize for the throne speech but Stephen, you might want to text him again.

You are “our” prime minister. If you don’t want mental illness in “your” community I suggest you vacate 24 Sussex. The delusion is yours Mr. Prime Minister.

As an Aside:

“The Court Challenges Program was first established in 1978. It was designed to provide legal and financial assistance to Canadians whose voice would not otherwise be heard by the courts. It was believed that in order to assure the equality rights of all Canadians, it was vital that Canadians, regardless of situation or financial means, have the ability to challenge government laws and directives on constitutional grounds. Without this protection, many Canadians would be voiceless when confronted by an unconstitutional action by their government – for them, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms rendered an ineffectual piece of paper.

This seemed to be of little concern to the Conservative party when they cancelled all funding for the program, on September 25, 2006.

In the House of Commons, Stephen Harper responded indignantly to questions about the program’s cancellation, saying that his government “intends to behave in a constitutional manner,” and that they “do not intend to adopt unconstitutional legislation.” But can Mr. Harper make the same guarantee for the governments that follow his? Why cancel a long-term protection that was functioning perfectly well, at very little cost?

Does it make sense to remove all the fire extinguishers from a building, reasoning that “We have no intention of starting a fire”?

Harper’s Conservatives have a history of not handling well the questioning of their authority or judgment, whether in the House of Commons or in the courts. When confronted, they would sooner silence the opposing voice than debate it. One might ask, “Is it wise to trust the intentions of a government that behaves in this manner?”

CBC Documentary ( Doc Zone) Not Criminally Responsible

Last night I watched the CBC documentary on Not Criminally Responsible. I hope many people watched it in its entirety to see forgiveness and the transformation of both the victim and the patient. To be caught unaware in a delusion and end up in the reality of jails or nurses is an unlucky event for all involved. No one calls out for these events. On some scale it is similar to a lightning strike. To be struck by lightning does not hold out any more promise of the same happening again. One could consider Forensic mental health care as getting off the golf course.

In a very measured and cautious way most Not Criminally Responsible individuals find themselves regular people again. The underlying perception that these individuals are susceptible if not likely to re-offend is faulty. For some it is their first exposure to intensive mental health care. One of Sean Clifton’s nurses said he saw an “amazing transformation in the gentleman”. I have seen symptoms I would have considered hopeless diminish and disappear. One of the gentlemen I was in hospital with for months had benign but unusual obsessions and references to reality. One day I saw him in the hall and spoke with him, usually it was only nonsense but on this occasion he clearly saw what I did and I could recognize his speech and he mine. There seems to be a link in some people’s minds between a psychopathic mind and one affected by an Axis 1 mental illness. Psychopathy is considered presently to be untreatable and is diverted away from the Forensic System.

The violence in our communities is seldom tied to mental illness but for many minds that is the main connection made. I heard the other evening from someone more than capable of deciphering medicine and math that roughly 3% of violence in society is attributable to mental illness. I dropped out of biology, never took chemistry, was held back in math and ran in boredom from physics but that piece of information means that roughly 97% of all violence is committed by persons with no mental illness.

I’m not sure why our concerns lay with the 3% outside of misconceptions and stigma. CBC did a nice job on one case but to call the show Not Criminally Responsible is like holding up a cup of water and calling it Lake Huron. I realize one hour would have detracted from certain important aspects but if I consider the news story from the perspective of someone who knows little about Forensic mental health I might consider I have seen Lake Huron.

When calling a story Not Criminally Responsible I would expect to find broader information. It was an interesting story but only slightly representative. One can find themselves in custody for a wide variety of charges. Many Not Criminally Responsible incidents do not make it to the paper let alone the front page. For someone who knows little about this specialized area where medicine and the law intersect, I might think Not Criminally Responsible is proximal to violence.

In fairness and clinging to the title of Not Criminally Responsible this documentary failed us all by providing nothing for contrast. An opportunity to inform fell to the need for entertainment. One of Sean Clifton`s nurses from the Brockville institution he called home for eight years highlighted this fact when she said Sean was “one of the illest (sic) we’ve had through”. The CBC ought to know that even when doing a show on Not Criminally Responsible their coverage should be responsible. Canadians deserve no less.

The Spank of Equality

Now that many Canadians are aware of the inability of the Correctional Service of Canada to administer mental health care to inmates, I wonder what concern is in the minds of citizens. Many news stories pass quickly from our minds if they seem to enter at all. It is my assumption that few are talking about it around water coolers if indeed the prime minister has one.

They are criminals and mentally ill at that; they don’t show up on polls. Maybe if mental illness did show up on a poll, government could recognize its importance.

As individuals, we try to build ourselves up as something. Unfortunately, in this endeavor it is easier to be something if someone else is nothing. If we stand tall because others are below us, it is really just an illusion. Concern, care and compassion can be eroded by judgements.

Can we really say we have compassion and respect for others if these individuals are excluded?

What exactly are the miraculous changes that occur in a person to make them this or that? We dance about becoming, forgetting about the being…human being. We are all human despite clothes, location or position. We do not all get the same birthing spank of equality. The arithmetic can be simple when we look at another’s misfortune: ‘if they were as smart as me or worked as hard they wouldn’t be where they are’. When another’s difficulties are simple, we can absolve ourselves of involvement and have little need to stand back in awe of our complex good fortune.

It will take political will and money that many would rather see in a road but if a car is empty of understanding and compassion, it might as well stay parked.

I guess like any news story, it is only one if we make it so.

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.