Prison Assessment

How does a young person – who just turned 18 years old – with documented mental health issues and substance abuse, able to exercise agency and decide to plead guilty without conferring with his/her parents?

How does a young person – who just turned 18-years-old – with documented mental health issues and subtance abuse, able to exercise agency and decide to plead guilty without conferring with his/her parents? After Abdulrahman was arrested, he was placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU). He did not receive his medication (Olanzapine/Zyprexa) until approximately 10 days after his arrest. He reported to his team that he felt suicidal had attempted to hang himself and overdose on Tylenol.

According to the prison assessments, Abdulrahman was checked medically 4 times before pleading guilty on October 13, 2016, only a few months after being arrested.

6 days after his arrest, Abdulrahman was clinically checked for the first time. He mentioned experiencing voices/random noises, both without and with the influence of substances, which tells him that he is no good. The assessment affirmed that Abdulrahman has unspecified schizophrenia and other psychotic disorder; inhalant use, with inhalant induced disorder; opioid use, with opioid-induced disorder.

About a month later in June 2016, he was clinically checked in his Special Housing Unit (SHU). He was still hearing voices but to a lesser extent. The assessment affirmed that Abdulrahman has unspecified schizophrenia and other psychotic disorder. In July 2016, Abdulrahman referred himself to psychiatry. He mentioned his frequent auditory hallucinations and panic attacks. Whenever he gets a panic attack, he feels like something bad is going to happen to him. His mental state was a neutral mood with mildly restricted range of effect. In September 2016, Abdulrahman stated that the medication was working but that it contributed to his weight gain due to being in SHU and not being able to be active.

It is clear that Abdulrahman was not fit to plead guilty to the charges against him. Years of mental health problems and substance usage did not magically disappear during his time in prison – especially since being housed in SHU. His diagnosis of bipolar disorder and unspecified schizophrenia and other psychotic disorder was known by the doctors in the prison. He complied in taking his medication but continued to experience anxiety, panic attacks and depression in confinement. Combined with the Representation Issues‘, Abdulrahman did not have agency in his decision to plead guilty. He was not fit to do so and was wrongly influenced by the federal defender to do so.

After pleading guilty, Abdulrahman still experienced mental health problems. Before the end of 2016, Abdulrahman’s mother sent a letter to a writer who checked Abdulrahman for a crisis intervention. Abdulrahman’s mother was concerned for her son’s mental health and previous suicide attempts. In late December 2016, Abdulrahman noted that his anxiety and depression became more apparent having just experienced a panic attack the previous evening. At this point in time, the doctor’s diagnosis formulation was consistent with the facts of Abdulrahman’s life: long history of substance use, delusions and hallucinations, taking psychotropic medication, and anxiety. The doctor’s diagnosis was once again unspecified schizophrenia and other psychotic disorder. 

In February 2017, Abdulrahman was still in the SHU and was adjusting adequately as reported by the Psychology Services. He was compliant with the psychotropic medication but mentioned that it did not help with anxiety and panic attacks. A month later, Abdulrahman wanted to change his medication as he was still experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. 

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"What makes this story even more disturbing is that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) knowingly participated in this sting with the FBI. They unlawfully obtained Abdulrahman’s medical records that described his mental health vulnerabilities and provided them to the FBI to better manipulate this damaged youth.

This raises serious human rights concerns of discriminatory investigations, targeting vulnerable youths such as Abdulrahman, who had no previous history of violence or criminality, until drawn in by a U.S. government actively involved in developing the plot, persuading and pressuring the target to participate."

Dennis Edney

Canadian Defence lawyer