Ontario judge rules mentally ill can be held in jails
An Ontario Superior Court judge has blown a hole in a lower-court uprising over mentally ill offenders who are shunted off to jail cells because of a bed shortage at mental hospitals.
Mr. Justice Ian Nordheimer concluded that an Ontario Court judge acted unreasonably when she prevented authorities from placing unfit offenders in jail to await a hospital bed.
Lawyers for the mentally ill offenders expressed disappointment, saying the Nordheimer decision will reduce pressure on the province to expand hospital facilities.
Chris Hynes, a Toronto lawyer, said that Judge Nordheimer might have ruled differently had he been dealing with an offender who had languished in jail for several weeks or months, instead of a few days.
“This is happening and will continue to happen without an overhaul of current practices,” Mr. Hynes said. He said that the best solution may be for judges to set a tight deadline for CAMH to find a bed, such as two or three days.
Robert Singer, who spent several weeks at the Don Jail last summer waiting for a CAMH bed, said that jail is no place for the mentally ill. “Cold, dank, lonely, dark – and all they do is scream at you,” Mr. Singer said. “You very rarely get to see your psychiatrist.”