Justice & Mental Health
It is important to note that the majority of people with mental health conditions rarely come into contact with the criminal justice system. Yet, mental health-related emergencies do occur. In most cases, 911 is dialed and police, by virtue of their role as emergency responders, are called upon to assist in the crisis. Criminal and non-criminal situations can arise from these police interactions.
There is evidence that the culture of the justice system, especially within correctional facilities, may aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions, impeding recovery and transition back into the community. On the other hand, the justice system sometimes provides the first point of contact for accessing mental health services that can make a positive difference in the lives of those with mental illnesses. Therefore, it is imperative that a cross-sectoral approach be utilized to coordinate services and supports for individuals with mental health conditions who come into contact with the justice system.
How CMHA Ontario is addressing this issue
Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee
CMHA Ontario provides support to the Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee (HSJCC), a cross-sectoral collaborative that coordinates resources and services and plans more effectively for people who are in conflict with the law. Priority consideration is for people with a serious mental illness, developmental disability, acquired brain injury, drug and alcohol addiction, and/or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Police Records Check Coalition
CMHA Ontario is Co-Chair of the Police Records Check Coalition, a group of organizations and individuals who have been working together to end the discriminatory practice of disclosing non-conviction information, particularly mental health and addictions-related information, on police records.
CMHA Ontario has developed a position paper on conducted energy weapons (CEWs) also known as Tasers. CMHA Ontario is concerned about the use and safety of Tasers, as well as the propensity of law enforcement officials to deploy Tasers on people experiencing a mental health crisis or demonstrating signs of emotional distress.