Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Medical response in prisons identified as still a problem

A review of nine deaths that occurred in federal custody between April 2008 and April 2010 shows recurring problems in responding to medical emergencies, as well as problems with accountability and compliance.
The fourth and final assessment of the Correctional Service of Canada's progress in preventing deaths in custody was released Wednesday in Ottawa.
While the correctional service has taken some concrete steps toward preventing deaths in federal facilities, "measurable progress is not yet where it should be," the review's author, Howard Sapers, who is the Correctional Investigator of Canada, said in a statement.
"The preservation of life is an integral part of the mandate of the correctional service. I expect this principle to be embedded in policy, reflected in the culture of the organization and orient its day-to-day interactions with offenders."
The Correctional Investigator is an independent ombudsman for federal offenders.
The nine cases reviewed in the final assessment found problems in the following areas:
  • Slow response to medical emergencies.
  • Lack of sharing of information between clinical and front-line staff.
  • Lack of monitoring of suicide pre-indicators.
  • Quality and frequency of security patrols.
  • Management of mentally ill offenders.
  • Quality of internal investigative reports and processes.
One of Saper's key recommendations is that the CSC create a senior management position responsible for promoting and monitoring safe custody practices
Among his other recommendations:
  • Prohibit the practice of placing mentally ill offenders, or those at risk of suicide or serious self-injury, in prolonged segregation.
  • Provide round-the-clock health-care coverage at all maximum, medium and multi-level institutions.
  • Introduce audits to ensure the quality of security patrols.
  • Training front-line staff on how to manage offenders at risk of self-injury or to ensure proper monitoring, crisis response and prevention protocols are in place.
The quarterly assessment process was sparked by the case of Ashley Smith, who had history of harming herself and died in her Kitchener, Ont., prison cell In October 2007 after a prolonged period of segregation.
Smith had spent five years in the youth justice system in New Brunswick before being transferred to the federal facility in October 2006, at age 18.
Since Smith's death, more than 130 offenders have died in federal custody.

I completely agree with the recommendations, especially not imprisoning mentally ill individuals. They cannot receive proper treatment and services in prison and there conditions are likely to worsen in prisons, due to the negative effects (psychological). They should either be treated in a community setting or in a mental health care facility. There needs to be improved medical services in prisons also. Prisoners are human beings and therefore, deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and care. This means that they are entitled to adequate medical and mental health care. Anything less is inhumane and unacceptable. The government is obligated to provide for their basic health care needs. Healthcare is universal, not discriminating. The majority of criminals are released back into the community after completing their sentences. We need to do what is in society's best interests regarding treatment and services, because eventually, most of these individuals will be living in our communities. They need to be reintegrated properly and successfully and be provided with the skills and services and opportunities to do so. We need to be civilized in the manner in which we treat the mentally ill. Healthcare is a basic right to which all Canadians should be afforded. Prisons are meant to be for rehabilitation and protection, not further punishment and retribution. Many prisoners can be rehabilitated so that they are not a threat to themselves or others. Counselling and therapy around sexual, physical and emotional abuse would rehabilitate many. Education training and job upgrading would ensure inmates returning to soicety would have the tools necessary to become self sufficient and productive members of society. This would cost a lot less than building more prisons. 

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