Progress in efforts to keep developmentally delayed woman out of jail
Feb 22 2012
The fate of a developmentally delayed Victoria woman who spent 200 days in jail last year could be decided Thursday.
In January, defence lawyer Jesse Stamm made a public plea to the provincial government, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Community Living B.C. to build a facility to look after vulnerable, marginalized people like his client, Barbree Elliott.
Elliott, 29, has the cognitive ability of a five- to seven-year-old child. She suffers from bipolar disorder and is also a drug addict and a sex trade worker.
Reports presented to the court suggest she needs at least continuous supervision and that locked confinement is probably the only way to keep her safe.
"There's always the fear she'll end up in the wrong situation and get into some serious harm," said Stamm, who has defended Elliott since 2008.
On Thursday, representatives of CLBC, VIHA and Forensic Psychiatric Services will discuss whether it is appropriate to fast- track Elliott up a 50-month waiting list for the semi-secure Seven Oaks mental health facility in Saanich.
Initially, Stamm believed Elliott was not eligible for the facility because her IQ of 48 was too low.
He has since been told she is admissible to Seven Oaks, which provides services for adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses. "It's progress and there hasn't been much of that in the last couple of years," said Stamm. "There's a lot of effort going in to see if we can find a better solution."
Seven Oaks would be much better for Elliott than jail, said Stamm. She would have structure and routine, and be guaranteed safe interactions with other residents.
"It's really encouraging to see the response from CLBC and VIHA and the willingness to work together," Stamm said. "That's been the problem all along. Barbree doesn't quite fit either organization's criteria perfectly so it definitely has to be a joint effort."
On Tuesday, Elliott appeared in Victoria Integrated Court for breaching her probation for the tenth time.
Prosecutor Ruth Picha told the court that, after Elliott's release from the Eric Martin psychiatric unit in late January, she complied with her court orders for about two weeks.
Elliott, who wears a GPS tracker around her neck so her caregivers can keep track of her, disappeared on Feb. 14 for two days before returning to her fourplex apartment in Esquimalt.
On Feb. 17, her caregiver tracked her by GPS first to Sooke, then to Harriet Road in Victoria after she broke her 6 p.m. curfew. She was picked up by Victoria police at 9:35 p.m. and stayed in their jail over the weekend.
"There's one thing that's obvious in all of this — it's that Barbree doesn't get it," said Judge Adrian Brooks.
Elliott told him she did not want to be in jail anymore.
"I don't want you to be in jail anymore either," said Brooks.
"Isn't everybody going to work together to find a way to keep me out of jail?" she pleaded.
Brooks reminded Elliott she has a number of obligations to fulfil, including community work hours in the garden at her apartment complex.
Brooks told Elliott to spend the next seven days thinking carefully about what she needs to do, then told her to come back to court next week.
"Why?" she objected. "Why do I have to come back to court?'
"Because I want to know how you are doing. It's important to me," said Brooks.