I say gleefully because here is the Harper Government's™ response when confronted with the high number of suicides by those confined in segregation inside our prisons The suicide rate in federal prisons is seven times that in the public at large, with nearly half taking place in segregation.
Jason Tamming, a spokesman for the minister, said in an e-mailed response that the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime agenda amounts to “strong action” that is keeping streets and communities safe.
“Our efforts will continue to be focused on the victims of crime,” Mr. Tamming said.
The cases of Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe while certainly the most well known are not one offs as the Correctional Investigator of Canada Howard Sapers has reported on in several of his reports. Here is a case study from one of his reports that highlights the insanity that is segregating the mentally ill
Case Summary: In the period just prior to conditional release, a female offender engages in a number of self-harming incidents that increase in both severity and duration. Despite documented mental health concerns and poor institutional adjustment, she spends the vast majority of her sentence in segregation. On almost every occasion of self-harm, her behaviour is met with overly restrictive, punitive and security-based interventions that often necessitate use of force, including the adoption of the standing control restraint technique to manage her. (This technique requires the offender to stand, in leg irons and high profile rear wrist locks, until self-injurious behaviour ceases, which can be hours.) In this case, pressure was applied to the rear wrist locks to induce discomfort when she was not compliant or had attempted to drop to the floor. Despite a number of consultations between Region and National Headquarters on the best method/ technique to restrain this offender from self-injuring, it appears that a comprehensive clinical management plan to address this offender's chronic mental illness was never fully implemented. Significantly, the challenging “adjustment” behaviours that this offender presented while in custody have virtually ceased since her conditional release into the community.
Sapers on placing the mentally ill in segregation:: In the past year, I have been very clear on the point that mentally disordered offenders should not be held in segregation or in conditions approaching solitary confinement. Segregation is not therapeutic. In too many cases, segregation worsens underlying mental health issues. Solitary confinement places inmates alone in a cell for 23 hours a day with little sensory or mental stimulation, sometimes for months at a time. Deprived of meaningful social contact and interaction with others, the prisoner in solitary confinement may withdraw, «act out» or regress. Research suggests that between one-third and as many as 90% of prisoners experience some adverse symptoms in solitary confinement, including insomnia, confusion, feelings of hopelessness and despair, hallucinations, distorted perceptions and psychosis.
“We are primates, we are made to socialize, but in segregation you have no contacts, you can't speak to anyone. My friend died three months ago, he hung himself in the hole. Now I am in the hole. Sometimes you look at what you got and take it from there. If all you have is boredom, sometimes just getting excited and creating commotions (see Ashley Smith) is better than nothing. I am starting to crack... I am so bored and so cut off from interaction I can't take it anymore. I can't even see another man's eyes when I speak to him, can you imagine what that feels like?”
(A segregated maximum security offender in his own words, November 2009.)
Prisoners refer to segregation cells as the "hole" for good reason as being tossed in one is akin to being thrown in a deep pit depriving one of anything resembling humanity
A confession, I have a criminal past, drugs mostly, thus have spent time in prison including 21 days in segregation and can attest that it takes a sound mind to survive in there, those who suffer from mental illness stand no chance whatsoever
"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."
That our government not only continues this practice at a rate much higher than among our peers, and rejects the recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquiry but as I said gleefully hides behind rhetoric in the face of a slew of deaths is itself a crime