N.S. parents say justice system not designed to deal with people with intellectual disabilities
Published Tuesday, April 9, 2019 10:39PM ADT
The parents of a man with intellectual disabilities, who's facing criminal charges, say the justice system is not designed to deal with his needs.
They say their son, who lives with them, ended up spending a weekend in jail -- something they say shouldn't have happened.
Gary and Karen Jenner have spent the past year trying to help their adult son navigate the criminal justice system.
Last year, Andrew Jenner was charged with assault and uttering threats after a fight with someone he knows.
They are serious charges, but his parents say because he has intellectual disabilities, their son doesn't fully understand the situation.
“He has a difficult time with understanding right from wrong, and there's a lot of things in his daily living that he needs a lot of help with,” said Karen Jenner.
Things came to a head at the end of March, when Andrew Jenner was arrested for seeing the person he's alleged to have assaulted, thus breaching his bail conditions.
His parents thought that condition had been lifted at an earlier court appearance, but that hadn't happened after all, so he was arrested in Kentville and held to appear in court the next morning.
They expected their son would be released back to them. They say that's not what the prosecutor recommended.
“Because his conditions had been breached many times before, it was his suggestion that Andrew be remanded to the correctional facility, which is in Burnside,” said Karen Jenner.
Gary Jennersaid it was all very abrupt.
“We didn't even have a chance to say goodbye and say anything to Andrew and you're done,” he said.
Andrew Jenner spent the weekend in the Burnside jail in Dartmouth.
And while his mother says there didn't seem to be any issues while he was there, she doesn't think it was the right place for him.
“We were afraid and anxious for him knowing where he is cognitively, being put into that environment,” she said.
The Jenners say they've been trying to find out if their son's case could be handled by the court-monitored mental health program in Kentville, but haven't had a clear answer on whether he would qualify.
In an email to CTV News, a spokesperson with the province's public prosecution office says: “The Crown requested that he be sent for a fitness assessment at East Coast Forensic. That has happened and the report is now with the defence to review and to determine next steps for his/her client.”
The spokesperson says Jenner's lawyer would need to apply to have the case dealt with in mental health court.
“There's nobody providing support, and I mean almost nobody, so where does it begin?” said Gary Jenner.
The Jenners believe it should begin with a court system that deals with cases like their son's differently, to account for his unique needs, and those of anyone else with intellectual disabilities.
Andrew Jenner is due back in Kentville court April 23 to enter a plea to the charges. His parents are hoping something can be done to address his specific circumstances before then.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.