Mental health in jail brought front and centre in Regina trial
Mental health issues for a man in the Regina Correctional Centre have been brought to the forefront in his trial this week.
Nicholas Dinardo was once a happy, healthy young man. But now, he’s facing two problems – he’s currently in jail and he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
In September 2016, Dinardo was arrested on an assault charge and sent to remand. Shortly after arriving, he beat another inmate over the head with a broom handle.
“His mental health, I would suggest, probably is deteriorating,” said Bob Hughes with the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism.
Hughes, a local advocate, has been working with Dinardo’s family. He’s worried the man isn’t getting the support he needs.
“He has certainly been suicidal,” Hughes said. “That will be on the record out there several times.”
This week, Dinardo was on trial for that prison assault. A supervisor at the jail told court that Dinardo was moved into segregation after the attack – more than a year ago – and has been there ever since.
“They are basically confined to their cells for 23 hours a day,” explained Drew Wilby with the ministry of corrections. “(They are) given an hour of cell freedom, where they are not interacting with other people.”
The provincial government would not confirm how long Dinardo has been in segregation, since it cannot discuss specific cases publicly. Wilby did confirm that inmates can be place in segregation when they are considered a threat to other inmates and there is no maximum time limit on how long they stay there.
The policy is currently under review.
“We have just completed our internal work here,” Wilby said. “We look to formulate that into some strong recommendations.”
Dinardo’s case comes soon after a B.C. court ruling – saying lengthy stays in segregation can be considered torture. Medical studies also recommend people with mental health issues shouldn’t be segregated at all.
“All humans need the social interaction with other people,” said Phyllis O’Connor with the Canadian Mental Health Association. “Solitary confinement is something that removes that. So, now the person is even more deeply involved in just his own issues and in his own head.”
For now, the current policy remains and Dinardo is still on trial for assault with a weapon.
The judge will announce the verdict, and possibly his sentence, next week.
Based on a report by CTV Regina's Dale Hunter