BATH, Ontario, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Prison reform advocates say Canada is still housing prisoners with serious mental illnesses in inadequate conditions.
Two years after the United Nations urged Canada to end its practice of confining mentally ill inmates in isolation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports just-released documents released show the country's correctional investigator has raised concerns about the conditions at Ontario's maximum-security Millhaven Institution in Bath.
The facility houses prisoners with schizophrenia, major depression and other mental disorders sent there after the Kingston Regional Treatment Center was shuttered last fall.
Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, which provided the documents to the CBC, said the Millhaven Institution is "totally unsuitable."
"It's underground, it's small cells intended for punishment, and another coat of paint has not really converted it into a treatment center where effective help can be rendered to these people," she said.
"The last thing we want as a society is someone to come out of prison with less mental health than when they went in. I think we need to be very worried about this."
The Canadian Human Rights Commission had recommended prohibiting the use of segregation for individuals with serious or acute mental illness at the Millhaven facility, the CBC said the documents show.
"Despite efforts to remodel the unit and its surrounding infrastructure, my impression is that it is grossly inadequate as a psychiatric facility by both community and correctional standards," correctional investigator Howard Sapers warned in correspondence to Correctional Service Commissioner Don Head last July.
"The unit is basically a narrow corridor with aging cells with little natural light, poor ventilation and no common areas .... . Given the lack of common areas, it is foreseeable that many of the most mentally disordered and in need of treatment in the Ontario region will remain locked in their cell for unacceptable periods of time."
Sapers told the CBC some issues of hygiene and disorder have since been addressed, but inmates still are sometimes left in cells for 23 hours a day.