Here is a comment to the Globe and Mail, written by anti-psychiatry and human rights activist, Don Weitz. In it, he discusses the inhumane conditions suffered by people in prisons and psychiatric facilities, and the need for restorative justice alternatives.
The Globe and Mail
Recently on CBC Newsworld, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan claimed (falsely) that “mentally ill” prisoners get “mental health care and “rehabilitation”; he was responding to a critical report on the Canadian prison system by UBC law professor Michael Jackson and former John Howard Society CEO Stuart Graham.
In fact, thousands of prisoners locked up in Canada’s “correctional facilities” and “mental health centres” (e.g.,locked psychiatric wards, forensic units) are being tortured–forcibly drugged with brain-damaging neurotoxins (eg., neuroleptics, antidepressants), electroshocked (“ECT” without informed consent), languishing in solitary confinement (“segregation” or “seclusion”) for days, weeks or longer, physically restrained, traumatized, and denied many human rights .
Under the guise of “mental health care” and “rehabilitation”, many prisoners, including involuntary psychiatric patients, are forced to “earn privileges” which in fact are human rights; e.g., visitors, use of phone, educational material, daily exercise, especially accessible, competent and humane medical care.
We don’t need more self-serving lies or misrepresentations of the prison or “criminal justice” from VanLoan and other Harper government ministers. We need restorative justice, an Aboriginal justice model that should be adopted across Canada. Restorative justice is a lot more humane and effective than current “criminal justice” system, because it treats people convicted of criminal offences with dignity and respects their human rights.
Regardless of the seriousness of their crimes, prisoners are human beings- not animals or monsters. Loss or denial of the right to freedom is the most severe punishment – denial of other human rights in Canadian prisons and psychiatric facilities is cruel and usual. It’s time for prison abolition – not more “get tough”/U.S. style government repression.
Instead of prisons and psychoprisons, we need a national network of community alternatives: decent and humane houses including halfway houses, safe houses, 24/7 walk-in centres and drop-ins, 24/7 crisis centres, drug withdrawal centres. It’s time to think and act “outside the box”.
Anti-psychiatry and human rights activists; co-editor, Shrink Resistant: the Struggle Against Psychiatry in Canada