An institution that allows a mentally disabled prisoner to crack his head against a concrete wall over and over again. A physically disabled prisoner deprived of his wheelchair and forced to crawl and pull himself up stairs. Guards who watched on video monitors as Ashley Smith strangled herself to death in her cell and did nothing.
A prison sentence does not justify flagrant breaches of human rights.
Since 2007, the West Coast Prison Justice Society has received funding to protect prisoners’ human rights and health care needs. Our funding expired in March 2013.
We are the only legal clinic in Canada that provides legal support of this kind to prisoners. Without us, prisoners – including those who are mentally disabled – are left to navigate the complexities of institutional grievance, human rights and court procedures on their own.
Our human rights project aims to challenge systemic human rights violations against Canada’s most vulnerable and marginalized people – its prisoners. Prisoners are more likely to suffer from substance abuse, mental disabilities, HIV, Hepatitis C and risk of suicide than other Canadians.
Our project aims to fight the use of solitary confinement to warehouse prisoners with mental disabilities, advocate for the accommodation of physical and mental disabilities in prisons, and promote the establishment of health care comparable with community standards. Our aim is to advocate for treatment, therapy and rehabilitation for prisoners – concepts all too often ignored in Canada’s prisons.
We are also focused on advocating for access to Aboriginal spirituality and minority religions. Aboriginal people are overrepresented in Canadian prisons. As well, in 2012, the Harper government decided not to renew the contracts of part-time minority chaplains across Canada, leaving people of minority faiths without adequate religious support.
Our project has been successful thus far in assisting prisoners in receiving necessary medication and surgery, dentures, special diets, language support, programs for learning disabilities, counseling services, religious and spiritual accommodations, and psychiatric treatment. We have also established important legal precedents in the area of prisoners’ human rights.
Litigation is expensive, and donations allow us to continue to assist existing clients and a growing number of prisoners who have human rights issues. If you donate $100 or more, we will send you a beautiful print of prisoner artwork.
And please, even if you are unable to donate but agree with our objectives, please spread the word about our project. We thank you sincerely for considering supporting our work for the human rights of prisoners.