Prisoners & Mental Health

mary-banner-500x306.jpgCanada's correctional facilities are full of people with mental illnesses. In fact, the Head of Corrections Canada says our penitentiaries have become Canada's "default mental health system." We talk to Canada's Correctional Investigator about why that is and what's to be done about it.


Prisoners & Mental Health - Howard Sapers

We started this segment with Coralee Smith speaking two years ago about the death of her 19-year-old daughter Ashley Smith. Ashley, who suffered from mental illness, strangled herself in a cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario in October of 2007. She was first locked up when she was 15 ... sentenced to 90 days for throwing crab apples at a postal worker. Bad behaviour kept her behind bars. And as you heard, she was transferred between institutions several times over the next four years.

Ontario's Coroner is set to launch an inquest into Ashley's death next month. Other investigations have concluded that Ashley's death should have been prevented. And many mental health advocates say she never should have been in that cell to begin with. But many mentally ill people do end up in prison. In fact, so many do that the Head of Corrections Canada recently called Canada's penitentiaries our "default mental health system."

To help understand how and why this is happening, we were joined by Howard Sapers. He is Canada's Correctional Investigator. That means he acts as an ombudsman for inmates in federal prisons. And he monitors the system as a whole. He was in Vancouver.

Prisoners & Mental Health - Justice Mary Hogan

Mental health courts are meant to be a way of keeping mentally ill offenders out of prisons. Over the last decade, the courts have shown up in jurisdictions all over the country. Toronto's Mental Health Court was the first of its kind in Canada when it opened in 1998. Justice Mary Hogan is one of the judges who sits on that court. She was in Toronto.

Prisoners & Mental Health - Sandy Simpson

Toronto's Mental Health Court sends offenders to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health -- or CAMH -- for assessment and treatment. And just to be totally transparent, Mary Walsh has raised money for CAMH.

Doctor Sandy Simpson is the Clinical Director of the Law and Mental Health Program at CAMH. He was in Toronto.

Prisoners & Mental Health - John Bradford

The St. Lawrence Valley Treatment Centre in Brockville, Ontario, is held up as a model for the treatment of mentally ill offenders. Doctor John Bradford was instrumental in its creation. He's one of the country's leading forensic psychiatrists which, in layman's terms, means he's an expert on the mentally ill in the criminal justice system. He's with the Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group. He was in Brockville today.

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