The situation at the provincial level is no better,and perhaps worse. At least at the federal level there are programs for the mentally ill, as sparse as those may be and the conditions in the grossly overcrowded provincial remand centres test the sanity of even the most stable of minds.
People with mental illness, are often low-income, homeless or struggling with substance abuse . If they commit a crime, even low-level non-violent offences, punitive sentencing laws often result in their imprisonment,
"Prisons can be dangerous and destructive places for people who are mentally ill," said Len Wall of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. "They are victimized and exploited. Prison rules punish mentally ill offenders for symptoms of their illness - such as being noisy or refusing orders, or even self-injury and attempted suicide. Prisoners who are mentally ill are more likely than others to end up housed in especially harsh conditions, such as isolation which, in turn, can place them at risk for acute psychosis or suicide."
All this begs the question, Why are we imprisoning the mentally ill in the first place? Would it not be preferential, more just and humane, as well as more cost effective and beneficial to society and the mentally ill to treat their disease instead of criminalizing it. After all we would think it bizarre to throw cancer sufferers in jail simply because they are ill, so why is it deemed acceptable
to do it to those who through no fault of their own have developed a mental disease.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE OFFICE OF THE CORRECTIONAL INVESTIGATOR 2009-2010
A presentation by Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada.