The Fifth Estate: Behind the Wall essay

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In January 8, 2009, CBC’s News Network broadcasted a documentary about Ashley Smith, a fourteen year old teenager, who due to psychological imbalances, was put into a youth facility. To last for only a month, things were to turn out differently as she ended up spending her last four years of life in confinement/ isolation until she managed to successfully end her life through strangulation. Violent in her behavior and character, her confinement necessitated the recording of different interventions when she has been trying to bring harm to herself.

Diagnosed with ADHD, borderline personality & learning disorders, in addition to narcissistic character traits, she (Ashley) was to spend time in remand at different institutions even after attaining adult age. The use of force, as a response to Ashley’s myriads of violent outbursts, was to eventually become a concern for officials of Grand Valley Institution for Women facility. They were to eventually settle on the idea of ignoring Ashley even if she tried choking herself again. This course of action was to eventually lead to successful suicide attempt of the young mentally unstable Ashley.

A number of issues are of concern, as espoused above, and are a direct concern for the Canada’s administration. Among aspects of the policy that should be of vital scrutiny are the following:

1)      The treatment of psychologically imbalanced persons:

Isolation of mentally ill/ imbalanced persons, whether they are prisoners or patients over long periods, is in vivid disobedience to the Canadian law, which requires a mandatory review of all persons segregated for periods exceeding three months. Ashley, often transferred from one institution to another, would exceed this amount of time and thus leading to suicide attempts. From the years 2007-2010, Canada has experienced a myriad of deaths in its correctional facilities/ prisons, with a number of them exhibiting familiar deficiencies.

The investigator of Canada’s correctional facilities, Mr. Howard Sapers, introduced what could likely be a correction to the above case scenarios. His legislation entails an overall ban on the isolation of mentally ill persons/ prisoners over the extended time-phase. This has been because of the frequency of deaths, because of this isolation of a particularly vulnerable group. Mental imbalances are accordingly not to be treated through isolation, but rather by proper social care and medication among a host of other measures (Kondro, 2010).

Federal prisoners, just like other ordinary Canadian citizens, are entitled to proper health and Medicare dependent on the health requirements of an individual. While to some health issues may concern their bodily functions/ vibrancy. To others their health issues could be related to psychological/ mental imbalances, of which the latter requires greater and more critical evaluation and analysis. Psychological imbalances often trigger violent emotional outbursts, which are not only harmful to others, but to the person him/ herself. As was aforementioned, Ashley character’s traits not only caused harm to her, but to others as well.

Unfortunately, as of the persons who display characters like the aforementioned, segregation/ isolation is not the best way of dealing with them. Poor health standards of the prisoners in addition to the presence of psychological imbalance produce a very potent result when institutionalized or imprisoned. Worse still, is if the person is put in confinement/ isolation. The mind, when unable to cope any more, often opts for the ‘best way out’, and this is often by suicide. Due to a poor status of health by Canadian prisoners, their health behavior is often negatively affected.

Chronic conditions, mood disorders, asthma, cancers, diabetes, HIV/ AIDS and schizophrenia among others, are often sources of premature death through either suicide or homicide. Lack of proper public health services for prisoners are in the long run blamable on the absence of proper inmates’ rehabilitative measures and consequently on their successful reintegration back into society (Jargens, 2004).

2)       The presence of individual failures:

Individual failures are partly to blame for not only Ashley’s death, but a host of other persons’, especially those in federal facilities/ institutions. Individual failures, as presented, include such as that displayed by Ashley’s correctional facility personnel when dealing/ as a response to her mental health needs. In addition, the continuous isolation of a mentally imbalanced person by CSC’S management personnel in addition to its Offender Complaints and Grievance system failure are blamable for most of the resultant deaths. In similar fashion comes the improper use of transfers within institutions as espoused by Ashley’s troubled life. Transfers should necessitate various assessments as to the reasons why and consequential resultant effects from such moves.

The utility of ‘forceful coercion’, when mitigating an incidence or occurrence in the correctional facility is at times necessary, though in the end it often compounds the situation even more. Absence of proper communication, especially in the correctional facility/ institution is also ranked as one of the leading factors in the negative occurrences. With lack of proper communication, accountability is always strained as is espoused in the aftermath of Ashley’s death during her death’s enquiry (Sapers, 2008).

From the above, practical challenges abound as to the best possible way forward. Mentally imbalanced prisoners are best kept in isolation because of their possible violent impacts and outcomes. However, when under sedation/ medication, they should be allowed a sort of social interaction. On the issue of transfers, this should be strictly supervised and rarely enforced as it has negative impact on the persons involved. Canada’s CSC requires a review of its penal code, as pertaining to the treatment of prisoners (especially women) and standard procedures by personnel employed in these institutions.

In conclusion, both the above aspects were directly linked to the overall outcome of Ashley’s (and others not mentioned) death. Mentally imbalanced persons should especially be treated in psychiatric facilities and not be mixed with other people even in prison (Arbour, 1996).

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