The Government of Ontario in Canada and the Human Rights Commission of the province have signed an agreement to discontinue the practice of placing inmates with mental illnesses in solitary confinement, except under exceptional circumstances. The process of tracking and gradually ending the practice will begin with immediate effect. The accord order, issued by the Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, will apply to all 26 correctional facilities across the province.
According to Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the order confirms that immediate action needs to be taken by the government to end the isolation of prisoners with mental health problems. “It also includes measures that will keep the spotlight on corrections for years to come,” Mandhane said in a statement. At present, there is no limit on who can be kept in segregation or for how long.
The origin of the order dates back to 2012, when an application was filed by a woman who claimed that she had been placed in segregation for a long time at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center. She alleged that she was kept in isolation owing to her mental illness and gender. It has been over four years since it was agreed by the province to put an end to the segregation of people with mental illness.
Welcoming the agreement, Ontario Correctional Minister Marie-France Lalonde made a commitment to work toward an overhaul and eventually phase out segregation. All provincial jails in Ontario are covered in this agreement. The province agreed to prepare a report in 18 months about how female inmates with mental problems should be treated and also to ensure that proper psychiatric care is provided to prisoners. The government, on its part, will be required to accumulate data on the use of segregation and release it for an expert to administer its terms.
While a Canadian judge has called the practice of indefinite isolation “unconstitutional,” the United Nations says that solitary confinement that exceeds 15 days is “torture.” The UN also called for a move to prohibit confinement for the young and for those suffering from any mental illness.
Solitary confinement issue in US
Like Canada, the United States is also facing the problem related to solitary confinement of people with mental disorders. In violation of federal policy, prisoners with mental disorder are being kept in isolation for long periods of time across the U.S., according to a new report. The Justice Department inspector general found prisoners, many of them mentally ill, placed in solitary confinement for long periods and “with limited human contact,” the report said. The Federal Bureau of Prisons does not put a limit on the maximum number of days that prisoners can spend in segregation cells.
According to a November 2016 survey released by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) and the Yale Law School’s Arthur Liman Public Interest Program, several states across the U.S. hold thousands of people in isolation. While Texas reported 5,832 people in isolation for 15 days or more, New York had 4,498 inmates living in the same condition. In California, 8,329 people were in segregation cells, while Florida reported 3,254 individuals in solitary confinement for up to three months.
Early treatment helps in faster recovery
Mental health problems are widespread in the U.S. Though the journey to complete recovery may take time, mental disorders can be treated. People with mental problems should be encouraged to seek professional assistance as the stigma attached with such conditions works as hindrance to go for treatment. Such individuals should visit a reputed mental health care provider for a lasting recovery.
At the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline, we can help you understand more about mental health disorders and connect you to the best treatment centers in the U.S. Reach out to us at our 24/7 outpatient mental health helpline number (855) 653-8178 to get connected to one of the finest treatment facilities in the U.S. You can also chat online with a representative at our outpatient mental health helpline center for more information.