It seems obvious that solitary confinement for someone with mental health issues is dangerous and destructive. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has long held that placing vulnerable individuals in solitary confinement denies them their human rights, and for those with mental health issues, it can lead to irreparable harm.
Four months ago, I began teaching inmates in two of Ontario's maximum security jails. The experience has taught me a lot in a very short amount of time. I'm learning about an alternative universe that exists in parallel to mine. I'm accessing a dimension which is completely divergent from the one I was born into, and I'm still trying to digest it all.
Rehabilitation programs at correctional facilities in North American prisons are transforming the way offenders learn vocational skills and practice behaviours that will set them up for success after serving their time.
There is a violent offender on the loose in Winnipeg -- and police are powerless to do anything about it. This individual has plagued the police and the community for years. He has not faced any consequences for his behaviour. Why? Because he is a 10-year-old boy, and under the law, he is too young to be charged.
Canadians might be surprised to learn that many health and social services widely available in the community are not available in most of Canada's correctional facilities -- this needs to change. We are missing a critical window of opportunity to reframe the period of incarceration as a time to help people improve their health and well-being before returning to our communities.
The program aims to stop the "revolving door" of addiction and crime.
Freedom of expression has cost my husband, Raif Badawi, his own freedom. As we speak, he is locked inside a small cell in a remote prison in Saudi Arabia; a country where censorship prevails. A country, my country, which views women as second class citizens. A country, my husband's country, that he so loves -- all of its land, its women and men, his love of his country, which extends right up to the doors of Shura, which is set on ruining the aspirations of an entire people. A country where the young are choking in a whisper that should be a scream.
The current system has tremendous shortcomings -- it abandons victims, leaving them to heal alone, at times powerless, and without any meaningful answers. There is a better way to help victims heal and to hold offenders accountable for their acts while empowering them to improve their lives. That alternative is restorative justice.
"Research shows the earlier and longer youth spend in the system, the worse the outcomes are," says Peter Leone, a professor at the University of Maryland who has studied juvenile justice measures around the world for more than 20 years. It costs approximately $100,000 a year to incarcerate one young person in Canada. If that individual becomes a hardened life-long criminal, the amount will exceed a staggering $2 million, according to a Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
I was a true believer in the war on drugs, but at the end of the day, as a physician, I have believe in an evidenced-based approach. The evidence shows that incarceration doesn't work, and decriminalization with offers of treatment do. It's time to ignore dogma and act in the best interests of Canadians. It's time to end this war.