Re: Harper targets mentally ill offenders (Feb. 9). We all want to have a safer society. The current debate leads me to wonder, what is the purpose of our justice system? Is it merely to punish, or is it to protect the public by reducing the likelihood that a person who has been convicted of a crime will reoffend?
Let's look at the facts:
Only .001 per cent of Canadians who have been charged with a Criminal Code violation are found "not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder" in relation to a violent crime.
Recidivism rate of that 0.001 per cent, is only 2.5-7.5 per cent.
Recidivism rate of federal offenders in the regular justice system is 41-44 per cent
Most persons found NCRMD under the current system already spend longer periods of time under the supervision of the review board, than if they had gone to jail.
Persons whose illness responds to treatment are no more dangerous than anyone in the general population. The true "high-risk" comes from untreated or refractory illness.
Every illness is individual -- of several people with any illness, none will recover or improve at the same rate.
Therefore, if the purpose of the justice system is to increase public safety, does the proposed new legislation actually make anyone safer? Perhaps our attention would be better turned to improving the recidivism rates of the regular justice system.
I suggest that the real solution for public safety is an increase in prevention and social supports that will encourage more early recognition and treatment of mental illness.
President, Manitoba Schizophrenia Society