Jailed without a cause

More than a year ago, Veronica Germaine was found not criminally responsible for past crimes and her charges were dropped.

More than a year ago, Veronica Germaine was found not criminally responsible for past crimes and her charges were dropped.

But the 32-year-old Northern Tutchone woman remains in jail.

She’s been there for 29 months, and doesn’t know when she’ll be released.

“I’ve watched guys come in on sex-abuse charges and they’re already out,” she said.

“And I’m in here without any charges.”

Germaine was found not criminally responsible due to mental disorders, but she is not getting the treatment she needs.

“This is a jail, not a hospital,” she said.

Germaine grew up in a government group home in Mayo, and was sexually abused from the age of five through 14.

“I kept trying to kill myself,” she said.

“I’m a prime example of what the government did wrong.”

Sitting in the elders’ room at Whitehorse Correctional Centre in red scrubs, Germaine talked candidly about her horrifying past.

“I have a lot of deep suppressed emotions from those experiences,” she said.

“And it’s hard to find yourself in here.”

Germaine has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Her sentencing disposition clearly states that Germaine is not to be treated as an inmate, said Elizabeth Fry Society of Yukon president Cindy Chaisson, who is dealing with Germaine’s case.

“The jail is supposed to make accommodations to fix her situation, and it’s not.”

Germaine is always on guard.

“You have to be,” she said.

“You never know when a fight is going to break out.”

Several weeks ago, Germaine ended up in an altercation with another female inmate.

“This woman just came in off the street and started uprooting everybody, fighting with a lot of people,” said Chaisson.

“And I don’t care who you are, you push a person up against the wall enough and they’re going to come out and be defensive.”

Jail officials responded by taking away Germaine’s school privileges and moving her to a small windowless dorm.

But after four days, Yukon College warned that Germaine would be out of the college prep program if she missed anymore schooling, and the jail let her return to classes.

“She is in with a bunch of criminals and is being treated like a criminal,” said Chaisson.

“When you start taking away things from her, like not letting her go to class, or see her lawyer, that’s just not right.”

When she was found not criminally responsible, there was talk of sending Germaine to Ontario for treatment.

But she didn’t want to go.

“All my support is here,” she said.

“And I have my kids here — if I went away and came back I could easily relapse, because aftercare really sucks here.”

The bottom line is Germaine needs to be somewhere else, but not outside the Yukon, said Chaisson.

“They wanted to send her right across Canada for treatment, but she’s got a lot of supports here.”

Germaine tried to contact Kaushee’s Place and set up appointments with women’s advocates, but was told by jail and Health officials these meetings would not happen because they were not “therapeutic,” she said.

But it’s jail that’s not therapeutic, said Germaine.

“It’s not a stable place.

“You can’t do any healing — if you show any vulnerability you’re either kicked down or used and abused.”

Germaine tried to get into Kaushee’s and the Adult Resource Centre, a halfway house for men, said Chaisson.

“But there is nowhere for a female to go in this town.”

There is no halfway house for women in the territory.

“It’d be great to have a halfway house — lots of women would have been out by now,” said Germaine.

Germaine currently sees two therapists and one counsellor, but her attempts to build further external supports have been denied.

“I am asking to connect with the community and find elders and they won’t let me,” she said.

Although she’s completed jail programs like anger management, and is using those new-found skills, she is missing spiritual support.

There are four parts to healing, she said.

The mental is being satisfied through her college courses; the emotional is managed through therapy. Germaine’s doing what she can to meet the physical, but the spiritual sits empty.

“And the spiritual part is where I get my hope and receive my faith,” she said.

Germaine’s life has followed a cycle of abuse, addiction and survival.

“I grew up in a system where I was suppressed and told I was good for nothing and not going to amount to anything,” she said.

“If I ever grieved, cried or showed my true feelings I was hit and told to, ‘Shut the hell up’ — that’s how I grew up.

“I never grew up with a loving family, I don’t know what a loving family is.

“I still don’t even know who I am.”

Germaine should not be in jail, said Chaisson.

“It is not her fault that the government does not have facilities to house her properly and get her the treatment she needs.

“They don’t have the right psychiatric facilities here, and I would much sooner see her up at the hospital under some kind of supervision rather than at the jail, because all that’s doing is really putting her in volatile situations.”

Germaine’s case is handled by mental health clinical manager Marie Fast, Justice integrated-offender manager Clara Northcott and Germaine’s probation officer, who make recommendations to the review board.

It was Fast who said that contacting Kaushee’s was “not therapeutic,” said Germaine.

“They make these decisions and then go home from work and forget I am still sitting in this 10-by-15 (foot) room — it’s just a job for them.

“I’m having a hard time believing in the people who are supposed to be taking responsibility for my life.

“I’m always waiting for the next disappointment. I set myself up for another emotional upheaval.”

On October 30th, the review board is meeting to discuss Germaine’s case.

“To see what they’re going to do with me,” she said.

“They are making decisions about me, and I’m not part of it.

“I haven’t had responsibility over my life since I was a kid, and look what happened to me.”

Germaine’s human rights are being abused, said Chaisson, who is contacting Human Rights and dealing with Germaine’s case on a national level through Elizabeth Fry.

Chaisson is not just blaming the jail, she also holds Justice Minister Marian Horne and Health and Social Services responsible.

“Somebody has to be held accountable — it’s easy to pass the buck,” she said.

Calls to Horne were not returned.

Fast was contacted but refused comment until permission was granted from Health spokesperson Pat Living.

Living was contacted but did not return calls by press time.