TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2013
The mental health needs of prison inmates is the focus of a landmark settlement reached yesterday.
The agreement arises from an application filed by Christina Jahn, a woman with mental illness, addictions and cancer, with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Ms. Jahn alleged that she was placed in segregation for 210 days at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre because of her mental health disabilities, and that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services discriminated against her by failing to accommodate her mental health-related needs.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission intervened in Ms. Jahn’s case to address the systemic issues that led to her not receiving appropriate mental health services and being placed in segregation.
As a result of the settlement, the Ministry will review how to best serve women inmates with mental illness. The Ministry will also put in place mental health screening for all inmates, and ensure people who need treatment plans and mental health services have access to them. The Ministry will also train front line staff and managers on mental health issues and human rights obligations.
The Ministry has committed to changing its policies to only use solitary confinement or segregation for inmates with mental health disabilities as a last resort. Many studies have reported the damaging psychological effects of segregation, particularly on inmates with mental illness.
OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall praised the settlement. “We would like to thank Ms. Jahn for her courage in bringing this case to the Tribunal. This settlement makes great strides in ensuring the proper identification and care of women with mental illness in provincial correctional institutions. A lack of accessible treatment and programs and the use of segregation can have serious consequences on individuals with mental illness in prisons. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Ministry in working towards these critical goals”.
MCSCS Deputy Minister Stephen Rhodes said “The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services continues to work with partners, such as the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to make Ontario’s correctional system more responsive to the needs of inmates with mental illness. This settlement supports the ministry’s ongoing efforts to ensure the safe and appropriate care of inmates in our custody.”
For information, please visit the OHRC’s Web site at www.ohrc.on.ca
SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission