The MJLH’s 7th Annual Colloquium: What is the Mental Health Unit for Women Serving a Federal Sentence?

Posted By Lauren Hanon

The McGill Journal of Law and Health is hosting its 7th annual Colloquium this coming Saturday, February 21st. The topic of this year’s colloquium is: “The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act: Mental Health and the Law.” With many great speakers and participants lined up, one notable contributor this year is Dr. Renée Fugère. Fugère is the Executive Director of the Philippe-Pinel Institute of Montreal, a hospital and center for research and teaching.

One of Fugère’s current projects with the Institute is the Mental Health Unit for Women Serving a Federal Sentence. The services offered to women serving a federal sentence by the Unit include psychiatric care and treatment through individual and collective therapeutic strategies. The treatment for each patient is aimed at addressing her specific and individual mental health needs, and offering women the type of necessary care that prisons simply do not seem capable of. The program thus seems extremely promising for any woman suffering from mental health issues who is serving a federal sentence.

How does a female detainee access the program?

There are two requirements for a female detainee to be admitted into the program: 1) the institution in which she is detained must request that she be assessed by the Philippe-Pinel Institute; 2) the needs of the female detainee, in terms of psychiatric care, must be too much for the institution itself to handle. There is also a voluntary aspect of this program for women who suffer from a severe personality disorder.

Is the program large enough to accommodate all women suffering from mental illness?

The program has approximately 15 beds and accepts women from across Canada. A detainee may stay for a maximum of 12 months.

A question that immediately pops up is whether this is enough for women suffering from mental health issues who are serving sentences. If not, are there other similar programs elsewhere in Canada? How many are there and how many women do they serve?

Other questions that I hope to see answered at the Colloquium this Saturday include: What quality of care do women receive within their institution before they would qualify for such a program? What does it mean for women to serve a federal sentence and be suffering from mental illness at the same time?

If you too would like to find out more about Dr. Fugère’s wonderful initiative, be sure to join us this Saturday, February 21st at the MJLH’s 7th annual Colloquium.

For more information on the MJLH Colloquium, and to read up on our other distinguished speakers, click here.

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