By: Satad Sharar
Mental health is a topic that is becoming increasingly popular. It is a vital part of the overall health of a person. Sometimes people enter correctional facilities like prisons due to their mental health problems. A big problem in prisons is the effect it has on a prisoner’s mental health.
The biggest harmful factor is solitary confinement. Solitary confinement, also known as “the hole”, is a very small confined room big enough for the occupant to stretch in. Prisoners end up in solitary confinement when they break the rules such as getting into fights, stealing, and other things. Prisoners can be left in these rooms without a time limit. According to Canadian law, they can be in there for days, weeks, months, or even years, as there is no time limit. Being left alone in a dark room without any social interactions can take a major toll on one’s mental health. There is more harm done than good when this method of confinement is used as a consequence.
In 2007 there was a case of a young 19 year old woman, Ashley Smith, who strangled herself at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ontario. The prison guards not only watched her strangle herself to death but decided to record the incident. The Smith family was furious when they heard that their daughter’s name was being used in the rollout of bill 83 introduced by Trudeau’s government. The bill introduced “structured intervention units” which many human rights organizations claimed is just a new title for rebranding the same concept of solitary confinement. The bill placed no limit on the duration of time a prisoner can be put in solitary confinement.
Changing the structure of a correctional system is hard and lengthy but it is a cause a lot of people are willing to fight for.