Since the spring of 2014, the Senate Liberals have been opening our doors to Canadians through our Open Caucus initiative. The goal of these meetings is to foster nonpartisan discussion on issues facing our country. We invite all parliamentarians, the public and the media to attend.
On June 15th, we invited you to join us in a discussion on Mental Health in Prisons. Federal prisons now house some of the largest concentrations of people with mental health conditions in the country. We estimate that over a third of inmates in our Canadian prisons have some sort of mental health conditions. Moreover, last January, it was found that more than 25% of inmates are aboriginal. And many of them suffer from mental illness.
A recent internal study of the Department of Public Safety mentioned that the limited services and programs in the Canadian justice system focused on the mentally ill people pose obstacles to helping reduce the over-representation of this group as offenders. Mentally ill inmates tend to spend more time in solitary confinement, a form of imprisonment that Canada still uses today despite the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture formally condemned the practice in 2012.
Given the importance of the matter, we invited a panel of witnesses to discuss the issue surrounding mental health in prisons.
Our panel included:
- Lee Chapelle, advocate for inmate rights, president of Canadian Prison Consulting Inc.
- Michelle Mann-Rempel, lawyer specialized in Aboriginal criminal justice
- Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator of Canada
- Gary Chaimowitz, Forensic Psychiatrist, professor and Forensic Division Head in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Chair of the Psychiatry Section of the Ontario Medical Association
- Catherine Latimer, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Canada
This meeting took place:
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
9:15am – 11:15am
Room 160-S, Centre Block