Society is failing the vulnerable – comment/letter – Society is failing the vulnerable
April 17, 2008

Re:Stuck behind bars, with no place to call home – Living, April 14

We applaud the Toronto Star and Leroy Humphrey, his family and other concerned citizens for clearly illustrating that placing people who have an intellectual disability in jail, as an alternative to providing appropriate support, is one more failure on the part of a society that should be better able to help people in vulnerable situations.

In the 1800s, it was common practice to send people who had an intellectual disability away to institutions and, when those weren’t available, to prisons. Then, our society didn’t know better and these actions destroyed many lives. More than 20 years ago, the province made a commitment to close institutions for people who have an intellectual disability and reinvest resources in community-based supports so that people could live with dignity in the community. This was the right thing to do.

Today, we are still locking people up when there are supposed to be supports available to them. This is not a solution. Creating more “beds” in centres – further excluding people from society – is not the right solution either. This is another form of institutionalization.

Over the past half-century, community supports have evolved in response to the unique needs and abilities of people who have a disability. When such supports are available, people will have a better quality of life. We have failed Leroy Humphrey. We can do better.

Let’s ensure the right supports are there to respond to his needs so that he can contribute to society and maintain relationships.

Dianne Garrels-Munro, President, Community Living Ontario, Toronto

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