Both the Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail have posted editorials arguing that, as per the Office of the Correctional Investigator report Risky Business which I wrote about in my last post, mentally ill inmates should be provided the specialized help they need. Well duh … but hey… here’s a thought…
How ’bout we provide people with mental health treatment & support when they need it …. you know…. when they first start having problems? Before they wind up in the justice system at all?
It disgusts me every time I read a newspaper article about serious crimes committed by people with mental illnesses. Does nobody pay attention to how often it turns out that the ~criminal~ actually turned up at an emergency room asking for help before the crime?
We don’t turn people with heart attacks or broken legs away …. send ’em home with a number to call to get on a wait list for treatment…someday.
But we sure as heck do when it comes to mental illness. In theory, people who are at risk of harming themselves or others can be admitted to hospital – but you know what? It doesn’t happen that they are nearly as often as you might think.
We send them on their way – I’d have said “home” but hell, so many mentally ill Canadians are living on the streets, even that would be optimistic – and expect that they’ll cope until the system can get around to giving a damn.
And people hurt themselves, and yeah, sometimes, hurt, or even kill, other people.
You know what happens if you ignore problems when they’re small? They get bigger …and bigger yet.
People with mental illnesses should be supported & treated before they lose their education, families, lives, freedom…. every effort should be made to avoid criminalizing them …. and in the event that we FAIL and we do wind up with mentally ill men & women in our prisons, we most definitely need to smarten up and ensure that they receive the treatment they need. And we most definitely need to ensure that we do not punish them for their illness by adding to their sentences for acting out their distress when we fail them.
We can do better.
We must do better.
But far better we put resources toward keeping mentally ill individuals out of CSC’s grasp in the first place than accept their presence there as a given.