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November 1994: The Hadden Case -- Discipline for Attempting Suicide

The sweat lodge cases were not the only cases on the court docket which raised other questions about the appropriateness of invoking the disciplinary process. Mr. Hadden was charged with taking an intoxicant into his body and pleaded guilty. The offence report read:

Hadden was in a state other than normal. Hadden was checked to ensure he was okay because he had not changed his sleeping position for some time. His cell mate advised us that he was concerned. Hadden was awakened and told to get out of bed. He complied. When he got out of bed he stumbled across the cell and then back to his bed. He was incoherent when he was addressed as to his whereabouts and his physical condition.

The observation report accompanying the offence report contained the following information:

He was told to get back into bed. Health care was advised and they arrived to check out Hadden. The nurse while talking to Hadden was told by him that he tried to commit suicide last night by ingesting a quantity of pills. He said he was depressed about being refused parole and not having a place to live when he got out on the street. The institutional psychologist was advised and he came to interview Hadden. Hadden was placed on 15 minute watches.

Mr. Hadden, when asked whether he had anything to say before punishment was imposed, explained that he had been depressed because he had seen the Parole Board two days before this and had been denied parole. He had only five months left on a six year sentence, had been in segregation for the last five months and was on zero pay. He was so depressed that he had taken 50 pills in order to kill himself. He remembered very little about what happened when he was woken up, but did remember seeing the psychologist who told him that he would be back to see him on a regular basis. This was on November 16 and he had not seen the psychologist since.

Officer Wallin, after reporting that Mr. Hadden had no previous disciplinary convictions, raised the question, "While normally being under the influence of intoxicants is good for 30 days dissociation, whether that is warranted in this case, I donít know." Mr. Fox asked Mr. Hadden what he thought would be an appropriate disposition. Mr. Hadden said, "Iím on zero pay." Mr. Fox asked whether he was involved in any programs. Officer Wallin said that there are no programs in segregation. Officer Wallin asked Mr. Hadden, "What do we have to do to stop you trying to kill yourself again?" Mr. Hadden said that the psychologist promised that he would be back to see him but so far nothing had happened. Mr. Fox imposed a sentence of 15 days dissociation suspended for 60 days.

This case reminded me of similar cases I observed 20 years ago when prisoners were charged with an act " contrary to good order and discipline" when they slashed themselves or attempted suicide. Because it struck me that it was totally inappropriate to have charged Mr. Hadden for attempting to take his own life, I asked Officer Wallin why Mr. Hadden was charged. Mr. Fox said that he had the same question, because it seemed that this man needed some help, not punishment. Officer Wallin said that he did not know anything about this case beyond what was written in the offence report. At that moment, the unit manager for segregation was walking by and Officer Wallin asked her to explain why Mr. Hadden had been charged. She said that the psychologist, after he had interviewed Mr. Hadden, told her that he did not believe that the suicide attempt was a serious one. She also said that Mr. Hadden had a long history of being a drug addict.

Based upon Mr. Haddenís appearance in court, it would not take the expertise of a psychologist to determine that he was extremely depressed. His whole demeanour was consistent with a man who had given up on life. On what basis did the psychologist determine that swallowing 50 pills was not a serious suicide attempt? Mr. Hadden had been denied the only chance he was likely to have of being released with some possibility of a support network. At the end of a six year sentence, he would be leaving prison without a place to stay, facing the world from his recent experience of being isolated in segregation. Indeed, that isolation would intensify given the likelihood that Mr. Hadden would remain in segregation until his statutory release at which time he would have spent almost 10 months in the hole. His despair was not only given no legitimacy by the psychologist but was now subject to the disciplinary process. If the sweat lodge cases indicated a problem which called for negotiation, Mr. Haddenís case spoke to a need for compassion.

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