Saturday, May 25, 2013

The "hole" is costly

This week, Bobby Lee Worm (supported by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association) won a settlement with Corrections Canada for spending over 3 and a half years of her 6 year prison sentence in solitary confinement, otherwise known as being in the “hole”. The amount of the settlement is undisclosed.

Solitary confinement was introduced in the U.S. in Philadelphia in the 1800’s and quickly copied as a model worldwide. However, it soon fell out of favour because of the consequences it posed on inmates: confusion, paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, self-harm…. in persons whom had no previous mental illness.  In persons whom already had a mental illness, it only made things worse.
Deeply ashamed of the robbery she committed, Bobby Lee states: "Solitary confinement does one thing. It breaks a person's will to live. Being locked up like that you feel like you're losing your mind. The only contact with another human is through a food slot. Days turn into nights and into days and you don't know if you'll ever get out."
While in many other countries, the use of solitary confinement is being increasingly limited, its use in Canada is growing. Approximately 850 of 14,700 inmates are held in solitary confinement in Canadian prisons each day.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act outlines   the goal of Canada’s correctional system is: to provide a range of services according to the needs of  the offender and to contribute to their successful reintegration into the community.
Creating new mental health problems or amplifying existing mental health problems cannot lead to a successful life in the community.  Besides being inhumane, our existing community mental health resources are already limited, why create new needs?  Perhaps the government is establishing a job creation program for mental health workers?  And, do we want to spend our tax dollars continuing to settle law suits for prisoners whom have been mentally abused by stays in solitary confinement?

How long will it take us to realize that in our correctional system, there is a huge cost to the “hole”?

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