Prison industry screws George

So, an offender we’ll call George (we’ll keep him anonymous) spends about two years in Warkworth, a federal prison near Campbellford in Ontario.  He is released on parole to a half-way house operated by Correctional Service of Canada in Kingston while he waits for a bed in another CSC half-way house in his hometown.

George has every reason to expect his daily medication will be continued at the half-way house without interruption, but is told he must first see the doctor, a contracted doctor who is available perhaps once in a month.  George is stumped by this circumstance, given that he’s offered no recourse, feels he’d been left in limbo, typical of Correctional Service of Canada protocols, and knows he must somehow fend for himself.

He can leave the house during the day, and legally purchases cannabis which will substitute ‘til the doctor sees him.  But he doesn’t know he needs a permit to have this in his possession as an ex-offender still under CSC supervision.  His parole officer suspends his parole, he is arrested by local police, and sent to the Ontario provincial Central East Detention Centre in Lindsay awaiting a decision by his P.O. to either return him to the house or send him back to prison pending a review by the Parole Board of Canada.

The health-care unit in Lindsay is told by the Kingston half-way house that he is not on any medications.  He calls us for help. We call his parole officer in Kingston, reaching only a voice mail, and ask that the P.O. intervene to get the correct information to Lindsay.  Nothing happens.  George calls again, and again we make the call to Kingston, and leave another message.  Nothing happens.

George is returned to Warkworth.  His daily medication is resumed of course, and he’s waiting for a Parole Board hearing which could take up to three months or more.  He will most likely be sent back to the half-way house in Kingston, or to another where a bed is available.  And yes, he will have to wait to get his meds.

)()(

Does George’s experience seem familiar?

Refer to Brennan Guigue’s first-person narrative, “They don’t care.” PART II – An illustration, published on June 5th of this year under ‘Wars of my world.’

Edited quotations:-

“I was released from a prison in Quebec while in the middle of treatment for Hep C.  This was way back when the regimen consisted of a combination of injections along with oral medications (Ribavirin and Interferon).  Before leaving the prison, I asked about continuing the treatment in the community and was given assurances that it was “all taken care of.”  I was handed a parcel of documents and appointment slips for a clinic in Montreal, l’Actuel.

However, when I reached the half-way house and went to what I had thought was an arranged appointment at l’Actuel to resume that treatment, I found there was in fact no appointment listed, and that they had no idea who I was.  But, if I wanted a consultation with an infectious disease specialist, they would be happy to oblige, provided I paid the $62.00 consultation fee.

In my frustration and disappointment, I returned to the half-way house to ask my then Parole Officer to simply explain why, after showing the clinic all the paperwork given to me by the prison, I was having so much difficulty in obtaining adequate health services in the community?  Why would the prison health department go through the motions of providing me with all this meaningless paperwork if in fact they had no intention of helping me once I was released.  Basically, she told me that providing me with adequate health care services was not her problem.

This exchange with my Parole Officer was recorded as a “negative interaction”, and later listed as one of the deciding factors…a deteriorating attitude and arrogance…when the ‘house’ sent me back to prison……
…..as it turned out, I was returned to the community and to that same half-way house after about 98 days in Donaconna Institution because once I was before the Parole Board for my hearing, it could not find a reason NOT to revoke my suspension.”

)()(

Health-care information does not travel with an inmate transferred from one institution to another, including half-way houses.  Only doctors can request an inmate’s medical files, which will take time, and in community settings that can be a matter of weeks.

Isn’t it interesting that while our health care providers would not generally recommend suspending a treatment program, and in many cases strongly advise against it, this doesn’t apply to prison inmates?
Let’s suggest this has more to do with Correctional Service of Canada practice than it does with a medical professional’s best advice.

Have we said before that “they don’t care.”

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Prison & the press – we’re waiting……

…..ON THOSE POWERS IN CHARGE, those powers we petitioned on October 17 and posted on October 23, those powers who can make the necessary happen if they choose, those powers who must find the heart to act.

We’ll wait and keep watch….for now.

A commissioner’s directive for media relations is a reasonable and prudent guide for managing Correctional Service of Canada staff contacts with print and broadcast media.  CSC employees are fertile ground for tabloid-like sensationalism.

But inmates are not CSC employees.  David Jolivet, a paralegal who was for some long years a federal inmate in British Columbia, began a movement in 2007 to unionize prisoners, arguing prison inmates were government employees.  By early 2014 however, and despite a broad range of support amidst his court and committee appearances, a Federal Court of Appeal denied relief from a lower court ruling which said that prisoners were not government employees.  A further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada out of Quebec was either denied or abandoned.

At the same time, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that prisoners do not, by virtue of their imprisonment, lose the guarantee of basic human rights, including freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of expression, nor does their imprisonment remove their protection from unreasonable search and seizure and cruel and unusual punishment.

Correctional Service of Canada operates under the provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and must comply with the Charter and legislation relative to the care and treatment of citizens in carceral environments.  Given this, CSC should have no concerns about prisoners’ contacts with the Fourth Estate.  Journalists, editors, publishers, and broadcasters are well-versed in privacy and security issues.  If we accept that CSC adheres to its mandate, what objections could CSC have with inmate/media relations?

But CSC does have issues and we can only speculate on why that is.  We can refer, as we often have, to the Senate’s interim report on prison human rights, the second paragraph of the Executive Summary from February of 2019:-
“The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out.  As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny.  Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”

That’s from the interim report.  The final version has yet to be published, if ever, and that’s not due to a tardy senate committee.

Too often when matters arise between the people and their governments and government agencies, we are made to feel like Diogenes, holding high his lantern in the search for an honest man.

The delay in publishing this revised C-022 Media Relations directive has taken on a life of its own, inviting more questions of Correctional Service of Canada than the concerns first raised three years ago for the need of any change at all.

This isn’t going away.

Prison media relations – what’s next?

WHEN WILL the powers in charge step in?
We wanted to know.

October 17, 2022

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re:      Correctional Service of Canada,
Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations

Dear Minister Mendicino:

The CD-022 revision to bring Correctional Service of Canada policies for inmate contacts with the media in compliance with the Charter and “recognized democratic principles,” as Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger wrote, began almost three years ago.

Specifically, thirty-four months ago.

“Prisoners talking to the media…..what’s the problem?”, my October 9th posting, is enclosed.  It’s a chronology of the initial written contact on CD-022 between Dr. Zinger and Commissioner Kelly, followed by my numerous exchanges with CSC, the OCI, plus two queries to your office which were ignored.

So, just where is this new media relations directive?  As CSC’s Colette Cibula wrote on July 28 of this year, “It is an important policy that helps us ensure that we are being transparent about Correctional Service of Canada to increase public trust and confidence.”

Where is the transparency?  What public trust and confidence?

Why is CSC holding out?  Explanations?  Plenty.  Excuses?  None.

Do you care?

Charles H. Klassen

This was copied to:-

Ms. Pam Damoff, MP, Parliamentary Secretary, Minister of Public Safety

The Honourable Marci Ien, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Youth,
MP, Toronto Centre

Mr. Rob Stewart, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Public Safety Canada

Ms. Tricia Geddes, Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety, Public Safety Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,    Ms. Stacie Ogg, Deputy Director,
Office of the Correctional Investigator          Office of the Correctional Investigator

Mr. Patrick White, The Globe and Mail, Toronto

We sent this covering letter with Dr. Zinger’s copy:-

October 17, 2022

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Re:      Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations

Dear Dr. Zinger:

CSC’s Colette Cibula wrote in a July 28, 2022, letter to me:  “Part of the consultation for CD-022 included the Office of the Correctional Investigator which has been very helpful.”

I’m pleased you were involved in the process, but I suspect CSC is trying to rewrite the media relations directive to appear to comply with the Charter and the law while changing nothing in practice.  After all, that’s not only a systemic CSC objective in general, but CSC does not want inmates speaking with the media where it is at all possible to prevent it.

I’m sure you’re aware that inmates have always been able to reach print and broadcast journalists through undetectable cell phone connections.  Just so, you also know the publication of identifiable unauthorized material is subject to CSC sanctions.

In any case, an argument can be made that at this point that the CD-022 revision is no longer simply delayed.  It’s stalled.  I’ve enclosed your copy of a letter to Minister Mendicino and a relevant posting.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

So, is this going to get results?  Wishful thinking?  Something concrete other than giving politicians and civil servants heartburn and indigestion?  We are always prepared to be surprised.

What’s next

Prisoners talking to the media…….what’s the problem?

Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations lays out the policy for management, staff, and inmate contacts with the fourth estate.  CSC must revise inmate/media policy.  It’s been underway for two and a half years.  Here’s…   

…A CHRONOLOGY

December 18, 2019 – Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger writes to Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly with concerns that where CD 022 governs inmate contacts with media may not be Charter compliant and “in violation of recognized democratic principles.”

February 24, 2020 – Anne Kelly responds, advises “a revision of CD 022 in currently underway,” and, “we have reviewed the comments that you and your organization provided when CD 022 was distributed for external consultation on February 4, 2020.”  Moreover, “we expect that the revised CD 022 will be available by the end of June 2020.”

June 26, 2020 – Dr. Ivan Zinger submits his OCI 2019-2020 Annual Report to the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety.  Page 18 is headed “Inmate Access to the Media.”

May 6, 2021 – Our letter to Anne Kelly questions the delay in publishing the new directive.

June 22, 2021 – Our letter to Ivan Zinger refers to the above letter, adding “I do expect you have not let this matter ‘slip through the cracks’”.

August 27, 2021 – Email from Stacie Ogg, OCI Deputy Director, writing on behalf of Ivan Zinger says their office is in contact with CSC and OCI will “provide additional information when there is more information to share.”

November 29, 2021 – Our letter to Marco Mendicino, copied to Anne Kelly, Ivan Zinger and Patrick White (Globe and Mail), again questions the delay with the revision.

February 8, 2022 – Email from Colette Cibula, Associate Assistant, Communications & Engagement, CSC, acknowledges our May 6 letter to Anne Kelly.  “The renewal of the directive…is still underway.  It was delayed as the tempo of media relations as well as the need for communications with inmates, staff, stakeholders increased significantly during the pandemic.  I can assure you that it is now nearly complete.  We have conducted external consultations and are finalizing internal reviews before publishing it.”

February 10, 2022 – Our email to Colette Cibula acknowledges her Feb. 8th.  “CSC has made a point of headlining transparency as you referenced and having Charter compliant policies is paramount to meeting that objective.  True accountability and transparency are only possible however if the offenders in your care have an equal opportunity to lawfully communicate with the world outside the walls.”

February 10, 2022 – We forwarded the above two emails to Stacie Ogg.  She replied that same day with thanks for the information.  “It is quite helpful.”

February 21, 2022 – Our letter to Marco Mendicino notes he did not respond to mine of November 29th and included this excerpt from Colette Cibula’s Feb. 8th email, “I can assure you that it (CD 022 revision) is now nearly complete.”  To the minister, “It is now approaching two years since the Service undertook to rewrite this directive.  It leads one to wonder just what it is that you all fear from inmate access to media?”

April 20, 2022 – Our access to information request asks, “what documentation do you have to show how many inmates were included in the communications, and the names of the institutions in which they are housed?” referring to Colette Cibula’s February 8 email.  (“The prison industry & media attention,” posted June 26, 2022, questioned CSC’s inmate inclusion in the communications for the CD 022 revision.  Colette Cibula responded on behalf of ATIP CSC on June 27 to say the communications referred to delays with the revision caused by messaging and materials to inmates regarding COVID-19.  As she put it, “I did not indicate in my message that inmates were among the people consulted in the revision of CD-22 Media Relations.”  A careful reading of her February 8 email would indicate she was correct, and we misinterpreted her meaning.  CSC does not consult inmates regarding policy, as we wrote.)

April 24, 2022 – Our email to Stacy Ogg, “Well, we’re still waiting, aren’t we?  Dr. Zinger, you, and the staff at OCI have boundless patience with CSC, don’t you.”

June 18, 2022 – Our letter to Colette Cibula, copied to Anne Kelly, Marco Mendicino and Stacie Ogg, reviewed our correspondence, referenced her February 8 email where the revision was “still underway,” was “nearly complete,” and that CSC was “finalizing internal reviews.” 
“I write simply to stress the interest some quarters in the community have for an imminent circulation of the revised CD,” we wrote.

June 27, 2022 – The Colette Cibula email referenced in the April 20 italicized paragraph above concluded with “CD-22 is in the final stages of approval before being published.”

July 8, 2022 – Another email to Stacie Ogg at OCI quoting Colette Cibula from February 8th “I can assure you that it (CD-022) is now nearly complete,” and “CD-22 is in the final stages of approval before being published” from June 27.
“Good gracious,” I wrote Stacie Ogg, “five months to go from ‘nearly complete’ to ‘final stages of approval.’”

July 28, 2022 – Letter from Colette Cibula in response to my June 18th.  “I am happy to commit to you, Mr. Klassen, to share with you the CD directly once is it promulgated.  In short order.”

There have been at least five entries on this one subject.  To date, there’s nothing to see.  What’s next?

 

 

Prisons & torture….still? Really?

(PLUS, A HEALTH CARE FOLLOW-UP)

“Why does Canada still allow torture?” questioned an editorial in the Toronto Star on Wednesday, August 10.

Authored by Catherine Latimer, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Canada, she began with Eddy Nalon, an inmate who bled to death in a segregation cell on that day in 1974 at Millhaven Penitentiary.  August 10 is commemorated every year since as Prisoners Justice Day.  Prisoners fast, refuse to work, and think about the men and women whose lives have been lost in Canada’s prison industry.

Prisoners knew long before science backed them up that prolonged solitary confinement is torture.  Courts in B.C. and Ontario ruled that indeterminate isolation was a Charter violation, and successful lawsuits awarded damages.  The United Nations called it cruel and a form of torture.  In response, Canada abolished legislation permitting administrative segregation in 2019, and ministers claimed this would end the practice.

Catherine Latimer says they were wrong.  She writes that solitary has worsened in the last two years, with dry celling, lockdowns, medical observation, and more.  Structured intervention units (SIUs) were touted as the solution to abusive confinement but only served to perpetuate it.  As she wrote, “the correctional investigator, auditor general, senators, and advocates have raised countless failings in our correctional system.  They are frustrated that recommended reforms have been ignored.”

Why?  We wrote her on August 11:-

Dear Executive Director Latimer:

Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained.”

From my conversations with federal inmates, your question can be answered with Twain’s help.  When we remember that Correctional Service of Canada doesn’t care, the mysteries disappear, and our prison industry stands explained.

I hope this helps.

Does it help?  It doesn’t explain federal ministers’ lack of courage to stare down Correctional Service of Canada.  Shame on them, and shame on us for tolerating their apathy and indifference.

)()(

UPDATE:  “One prison……One health care follow-up” published August 28 was a compendium of the current health-care challenges facing Brennan Guigue, an inmate at the federal Port-Cartier Institution.

From that, “Kim Morin can’t overrule a doctor, acknowledged a review of the suboxone prescription is in order, but left this in Brennan’s hands.  He previously filed a complaint with Quebec’s College of Physicians, and I doubled down in our conversation later with Ms. Morin, suggesting another complaint would be filed if the doctor continued to defer.”

That second complaint was submitted on September 6th.  One week later, Brennan’s suboxone dosage was restored to where it had been some months prior.  He now no longer resorts to the institution’s black market to maintain the efficacy of the medication, a practice he did not hide from the prison’s staff and health-care unit.

Another point at issue was an order for a knee MRI that had been on Brennan’s file from two other prisons for at least two years, if not more.  Despite multiple requests for compliance, Port-Cartier’s health care unit declined/refused to acknowledge the order, telling him to use an access to information request to see the contents of the file, a process that could take months.

During this last week, Brennan met with the institution’s Dr. Roxanne Coté to discuss his suboxone routine.  She admitted the MRI order is on his file when he asked, but claimed it was appended only in January of 2021 which is incorrect, but even that concession is a victory.  Wait times in Quebec for an MRI are about a year according to the doctor, and he should expect to be called in the spring.  We’ll see.  He may still go ahead with his access to information request.

The doctor gave him an opportunity to address mental health and emotional issues.  It’s basic to medicine that drugs to counteract opioid addictions are partnered with counselling if positive results are expected.  He had previously been told that those services are triaged, which has meant he’s never had that support….ever.  Dr. Coté pointed to a specific program CSC has developed to meet his needs.  It’s just not available in his institution.  Yet.  No timeline, but that’s a subject for another day.

So, now there’s some action.  Wonder why.  Wonder too about the State’s good faith.

Soleiman Faqiri – No justice……

……YET! 

“For the third time, police have decided not to lay charges in the 2016 death of Soleiman Faqiri….who was severely beaten, restrained and pepper-sprayed by correctional officers in an Ontario jail….its latest review into Soleiman’s death once again found no evidence that a crime had been committed.”  Ben Cohen, Toronto Star, Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Star’s staff reporter is referring to the murder of a 30-year-old mentally ill man in his cell at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay on December 15, 2016.

OPP Detective Inspector Brad Collins wrote to the Faqiri family in February to say that even though a second post-mortem in 2021 by Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Pollanen determined Soleiman’s death was caused by jail guards, that didn’t change the OPP’s “prior investigative conclusions.”  “This is because there remains insufficient evidence to form the requisite grounds to believe a criminal offence has been committed by an individual of a group.”

This, quite simply, is cow cookies.

Faqiri family lawyer Nader Hasan said of the OPP investigation that: “They know that the guards used force unlawfully on Soleiman.  They know that the guards unlawfully confined Soleiman while they beat him.  They know that the guards killed him while committing these crimes.  Yet, the OPP continues to pretend that this is not murder.”

The question is why the obvious is not obvious?

This travesty prompted another letter to OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique, just as it did when the OPP declined to lay charges after their first investigation into Soleiman’s death.  On August 26, I wrote:-

“My experience monitoring our prison industry tells me there is one point about Soleiman’s treatment that hasn’t appeared in the public record.  The guards at the Central East Correctional Centre encountered difficulty in moving Soleiman from the shower to his cell on December 15, 2016.  They succeeded in time, and all that was left was to close the cell door.  There was no need for guards to be in his cell. 

Why were they there?  I know your experience tells you why, but I’ll put it down here anyway.

Guards were teaching Soleiman a lesson.  He had given them a problem and he couldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

Every day in every provincial jail and federal prison in Canada, guards teach inmates a lesson.  It’s wrong, unwarranted, it’s illegal.  Sometimes an inmate is severely injured.  Sometimes an inmate loses his life.  An inmate such as Soleiman Faqiri.

It’s up to Soleiman Faqiri’s family and their supporters to demand accountability.  It’s up to you to protect uniforms.”

There’s a hope this gave Commissioner Carrique after-lunch indigestion.

Yusuf Faqiri is Soleiman’s oldest brother and the founder of ‘Justice for Soli.’  Toronto’s Globe and Mail published his op-ed on Tuesday, August 30, “My brother’s death shows that in this country, there are two systems of justice.”  Near the end he wrote: “We are now awaiting the coroner’s inquest, which will demonstrate even more clearly how the system failed Soli and my family.  We intend to be involved.”

There is no date for that inquest at this point.

I sent Yusuf an email asking if he had ever considered that the OPP may be under pressure from the provincial and federal governments to not lay charges.  After all, doing that would open a Pandora’s Box with consequences that would reverberate across the country.

The last Soleiman Faqiri posting here on January 31, 2021, “Restless in the grave,” referenced the family’s outstanding 14.3-million-dollar action against Ontario and some individuals involved in Soleiman’s murder.  That suit may have been settled.  It hasn’t been mentioned recently and would not likely be public knowledge if it was resolved.

Stay tuned.  ‘Justice for Soli’ isn’t going away.

One prison……One health care follow-up

HEALTH CARE IN FEDERAL PRISONS is a frequent feature here over the last many months, and periodically going back years.  Care of prison inmates is high profile and despite ongoing recommendations from monitors and critics on the one side, and some positive feedback from Correctional Service of Canada on the other, how much has really changed in the trenches?

Numerous letters to responsible parties regarding one inmate in one institution were posted in this space during June and July, along with the few responses.  The access and availability of mental/emotional health care services for Brennan Guigue at Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec predominated the exchanges but his physiological issues were also appended.

We contacted CSC Assistant Commissioner Health Services Jennifer Wheatley, Acting Assistant Commissioner Health Services Manjeet Sethi, both at CSC National Headquarters in Ottawa, the Regional Director of Health Services at Quebec Regional Office in Laval, and Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Public Safety minister who is charged with overseeing federal prisons.  Also included were Nadia Pelletier, Health Care Services at Port-Cartier Institution, Ivan Zinger, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, and Derek Janhevich, the correctional investigator’s Director of Investigations for Ontario and Quebec.

This collates into a neat file, but to what end?  The correctional investigator’s office arranged for one of its staff investigators to interview Brennan Guigue during a trip to Port-Cartier Institution, a visit coincidentally scheduled just as this came to their attention.  That meeting came to naught when the investigator listened for about ten minutes to Brennan’s concerns, and then told him he could not be of help!  Isn’t that the purpose of Ivan Zinger’s agency?

Manjeet Sethi in Ottawa used files on record to challenge the claim that Brennan Guigue was not getting help and argued that he even refused attention, but then offered an assurance that the inmate was getting all necessary care, and further help was always available.  That was emphatically refuted, and Mr. Sethi was sent a 40-page psychiatric assessment to underscore CSC’s neglect.  Brennan Guigue wanted to mail out the written requests he had been sending to the health care unit in Port-Cartier as a rebuttal, along with the responses, but he was not permitted to do so.

Okay, so what came of this?  Well, to this point anywhere from very little to nothing.  There’s been more transparency specific to Brennan Guigue’s concerns but it’s only possible any will be addressed.  More importantly, this ‘noise’ attracted CSC’s attention, enough to warrant having Port-Cartier Institution’s health care unit meet with Brennan Guigue to review his complaints, and then also meet by telephone with me.

Nadia Pelletier is on leave.  Kim Morin, a nurse, is overseeing the health care unit at Port-Cartier.  She met with Brennan Guigue for at least an hour on July 15 to discuss his requests for mental health counselling and his unresolved complaints about reduced suboxone dosages.  Our 20–25-minute conversation followed on Tuesday afternoon, August 2.  In a move unusual for a CSC staffer, Ms. Morin began both conversations noting her preference for open discussions rather than simply taking authoritative postures.  Outcomes may not differ, but back-and-forth exchanges reveal more detailed information.

Kim Morin can’t overrule a doctor, acknowledged a review of the suboxone prescription is in order, but left this in Brennan’s hands.  He previously filed a complaint with Quebec’s College of Physicians, and I doubled down in our conversation later with Ms. Morin, suggesting another complaint would be filed if the doctor continued to defer.

Inmate requests for mental health care are triaged, Brennan learned, and with limited staff in high-needs prison populations, access can be worse than in the community.  Brennan has been waiting for years.  Except for CSC’s five or six treatment centres, these conditions are the norm in the system.  Port Cartier, for instance, has one psychiatrist who is in-house one day every month or two, plus two staff psychologists.

My conversation with Ms. Morin went further, digging into Brennan’s atrial fibrillation diagnosis at Port Cartier some time ago.  She opened his medical file as we spoke.  It noted he had an ECG last December which showed no arrhythmia.  Symptoms persist.  She suggested that perhaps he should have more frequent tests, but it was far from a commitment.

That same file made no reference to his left knee when I brought it up although Brennan was diagnosed with a torn meniscus or damaged ligament over two years ago.  Ms. Morin supposed she might have to search for information, again not exactly a commitment.  I sent her a letter on that subject, which read in part:-

“I can tell you that health care at Warkworth Institution requested an MRI for that knee.  When Brennan was transferred to Millhaven, the institution’s doctor there saw this in the file and then added his own recommendation.  The doctor at Port-Cartier did meet with him on the issue but, according to Brennan, did not even get up from behind his desk to do an examination.  In the meantime, the left knee joint is causing increasing difficulties.

Brennan told me recently that he wondered if making a request for help was worthwhile, given that no serious attention was paid to an earlier submission.

With this update, and your additional search of his records, I assume an MRI can be scheduled in due course to lead to a remedy to prevent additional damage to the joint.”

Prison health care has been, is, and is destined to always be a tragic contradiction to rehabilitation, unless and until courageous political will make it otherwise.

Prisons – lost opportunities?

“The core mandate of our correctional system is to rehabilitate and safely reintegrate offenders into our communities.  To achieve this objective, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is committed to providing safe environments for those who work or live in its correctional institutions.”  CSC news release May 11, 2022

Too many prison inmates are as prepared to return to the community as contributing law-abiding citizens when they are released as any of us is prepared to be an astronaut on a moon mission.

)()(

Consider the impact of institutionalization for example.  That’s the process where a person becomes unable to live independently because they are used to living in an institution.  That’s one source’s definition for this condition that counteracts a successful reintegration for ex-prisoners.

CSC knows what institutionalization is, can define it, and understands how vulnerable populations are affected.  To the degree that it feels a need to clarify how it deals with this, our prison industry might point to a step-down resocialization process by lowering inmate security classification levels, from maximum to medium to minimum to half-way houses to community supervision.  Nonetheless, CSC will release inmates directly from medium and even maximum-security facilities under supervision, either at statutory release or warrant expiry.

But simply giving an offender more freedom and flexibility can leave many feeling rudderless, not knowing what to do with it.  To boot, the CSC response to someone struggling in a more open environment is to increase security, including reincarceration from half-way houses.  What’s missing is a pro-active targeted supportive process that starts at day-one of a sentence and is ongoing for as long as CSC exercises control.

)()(

“Rehabilitate and safely reintegrate offenders into our communities.”  How is CSC doing that now? A sampling:  programs that target criminality and address mental/emotional disorders and addictions, education, relevant job skill’s training, relevant life-affirming cultural initiatives, spiritual guidance, volunteer-run 12-step groups and socialization activities like book clubs and discussion/debate roundtables.

Keeping COVID restrictions in mind, all of this has been, is, or will be again available in federal institutions across Canada.   Sounds good.  Right?  But all options are never available in any one institution with only a few available in most institutions.  Maximum-security prisons often have next to nothing for inmate participation.  In far too many places and for too many inmates, choices are limited to sleeping away much of the day, watching television, playing video games, doing a turn around the yard, or taking an hour in the gym.  Staff negativity and hostility further exacerbate the challenges.  How does that meet CSC’s mandate?

There are a limited number of part-time institutional jobs that do nothing to prepare ex-cons for a competitive employment market.  CORCAN, CSC’s agency that offers some substantive job-training programs, has few openings in few institutions.  And as a CORCAN spokesperson conceded here some months ago, most positions are simply intended to fill an inmate’s time.

Most telling is a total absence in our prisons of any up-to-date computer technology, training, programming, or internet access, making Canada a stand-out in western world ‘corrections.’

What’s left in the end is a few excellent opportunities for less than a hundred inmates out of thousands.  While secondary school courses are widely available, going further is next to impossible without computer access.  How many colleges/universities still offer correspondence courses?  As for correctional/rehabilitative programming, one inmate described them as cookie-cutter modules, a template CSC uses as a model for all.

Could this be tokenism?

Look at it this way.  Five-day ‘work weeks’ must be available to all inmates at every security level, designed as a multi-pronged and progressive pathway toward contributing to the society they’ve offended and not simply as rehabilitation toward a safe reintegration.  Potential ‘opt-outs,’ possibly many, would be thoroughly screened by qualified professionals to ensure they understand the ramifications of their choices.

)()(

What’s standing in the way of making a Service out of an Industry?  Budget constraints perhaps?  Then how does Correctional Service of Canada meet its mandate without funding?  And if there are behind-the-scenes negotiations, then why doesn’t the landscape change?

Does Correctional Service of Canada care about outcomes?

Prisons insist……

…..INMATES PAY 2022 PRICES USING 1980 DOLLARS!
BUT PRISONS DON’T TEACH MAGIC.  TOO BAD.

The minimum wage across Canada in 1980 was just over $3.00 an hour.  To give some perspective, as recorded here back in December of 2018, a sampling of 1980 prices listed milk at less than $2 a gallon, bread 50 cents/loaf, bacon $1.75/pound, flour $1.00/5 pounds, ground beef $1.00/pound, peanut butter $1.50/jar, potatoes $1.00/5 pounds, pork and beans 40 cents a can.  To add another context, a downtown apartment in major cities rented for about $250 per month.

At that time, a parliamentary committee established a pay-scale for federal prisoners based on the minimum wage, reduced by allowances for room and board, and other relevant expenses.  Those ‘relevant expenses’ have risen and fallen over the years, depending on the political party in power in Ottawa at any given point, and adjustments in prison industry policy.  For example, Correctional Service of Canada suspended the room and board charge for a period during the COVID pandemic to allow inmates to maintain family ties when no in-person visits were permitted.

Why is money given to federal inmates?  The Act under which the federal prison industry operates says it’s to encourage participation in institutional programs and social reintegration, but it’s not a compensation for work, as that would lead to ‘slave labour’ accusations.  Correctional Service of Canada will say that the money is to help inmates save for their release, help support family, pay for phone calls, supplement diets through canteen purchases, buy toiletries, clothing, tv’s. radios, games or whatever the CSC catalog offers

There’s never been an increase in the pay-scale, federal Conservative governments even made cuts at one point, and other factors have adjusted the figures over time. Basically, an inmate who has no job (there are few available, given the number of potential applicants) and is not involved in programming may end up with about $4 every two weeks.  Another inmate could qualify for ‘welfare pay’ at about $16/two weeks, others in programs or with jobs can see around $44/two weeks.  There are very few inmates at A-level pay, just over $60/two weeks.

Inmates have a $850 annual spending ceiling, although money applied to phone cards is not subject to limits.  Families/friends can and do send money to the incarcerated, but that doesn’t change what can be done with it.  No matter, the prices for whatever can be purchased is at market, the same or like what is available in the community.  So, what is this about saving money, supporting families, or buying canteen, toiletries, and clothing?  Any wonder there is a thriving black market in our federal institutions?

More on money, the assessed value of an inmate’s “cell effects” is capped at $1500.  From a pair of socks to shoes to a desk lamp to a television, the total can’t exceed that number.  The $1500 limit has been in place for at least the last 30 years, and possibly longer.  Again, $1500 bought a lot more in 1990 than it does in 2022.  What will it buy in 2032?

There is no arguing that a prison sentence imposes many restrictions, and limits on the use of money are necessarily a part of it.  But, when an inmate understands that their finances are restricted by policies that haven’t changed or been updated in more than a generation, how can Correctional Service of Canada claim it’s meeting a rehabilitative and correctional mandate?

The answer as always of course is that CSC doesn’t care, and with that, how can an offender not tell the prison industry, and the government that pretends to oversee its operation, and the society it represents, to turn around and bend over?

We deserve that.

Does drilling down over and over on these systemic failures ever become tedious?  No, not when what’s at stake is right over wrong!

Prison health care….not giving up….

…..NOT GIVING IN.

Last week’s entry ended with a June 19 letter to Derek Janhevich at the Office of the Correctional Investigator in Ottawa.  Brennan Guigue was not happy with the outcome of his meeting with the investigator the OCI sent to Port-Cartier Institution.

In the meantime, another letter went to the health services commissioner at Correctional Service in Ottawa, a follow-up to a June 24 letter published here on July 3.

 July 1, 2022

Mr. Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner,
Health Services,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

 Re:       Brennan Guigue

 Dear Mr. Sethi:

 Further to my June 24th letter in response to yours dated May 24th, Brennan Guigue has authorized, approved, and requested I send you the enclosed psychiatric assessment.

 This is a December 23rd, 2016, 43-page, court-ordered psychiatric assessment authored by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen (no relation), intended to inform the Court as it weighed the evidence in the criminal proceedings against Brennan.  This was requested by the Crown and was Brennan Guigue’s last psychiatric evaluation.

 Your letter claims that Brennan “was last assessed by a psychiatrist at Millhaven Institution on October 5, 2020.”  That was a part of an inmate transfer process consisting of two/three questions.  Was he suicidal?  Was he thinking of self harm?  Did he ideate suicidal thoughts?  If the answer is “no”, then he was good to go.

 You and Correctional Service of Canada label that a psychiatric assessment?  Really?

 Likewise, upon arrival at every federal institution, a nurse asks the same questions of each offender.  So, those nurses, and the health care unit at every institution, along with you and CSC, consider that a psychiatric assessment?  You no doubt expect me to accept that this passes for health care and is compliant with the CCRA.

 Shame on you.  Shame on Correctional Service of Canada.

 Charles H. Klassen

Yes, a 43-page psychiatric assessment was sent with this letter, a report written by a doctor with a practice in forensic psychiatrist who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Toronto.  The point in sending this to Mr. Sethi was to differentiate between what Correctional Service of Canada calls a psychiatric assessment from what, in fact, is a psychiatric assessment.

The next day, a follow-up letter was sent to Nadia Pelletier. In charge of the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution.

July 2, 2022

Mrs. Nadia Pelletier, A/Programs, Health Care Services,
Port-Cartier Institution,
Port-Cartier, QC  G5B 0N2

Re:       Brennan Guigue

Dear Mrs. Pelletier:

My May 9th letter to Health Care Services Chief at Port-Cartier Institution was answered by Mr. Manjeet Sethi at Health Services at NHQ Ottawa on May 24th.  I’ve enclosed a copy although you may already have a duplicate.

I’ve also enclosed copies of my two letters to Mr. Sethi in response, dated June 24th and July 1st.  I did not include here a copy of Brennan Guigue’s December 23, 2016, psychiatrist assessment.

“I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs.”  This is how Mr. Sethi ended his letter.  This is blatantly untrue.  On just one point, when did Brennan Guigue last see Dr. Cote?

While this concerns the care Brennan Guigue is not receiving, it exemplifies what is also the case for other inmates in Port-Cartier, and in every Correctional Service of Canada facility from coast to coast to coast.  Numerous studies castigate the Agency’s health care programs as non-compliant with the CCRA mandate, making too often for poor outcomes on the one hand and fodder for litigation on the other.

Would that it was not so.

Charles H. Klassen

Derek Janhevich in Ottawa was copied on those two letters.

July 12, 2022

Derek Janhevich,
Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Re:      Brennan Guigue

Dear Director Janhevich:

I’ve enclosed two follow-up letters regarding Brennan’s Guigue’s lack of health care at Port-Cartier Institution.

One is to Nadia Pelletier, Health Care Services at Port-Cartier Institution, while the second is to Manjeet Sethi, Assistant Commissioner at CSC NHQ in Ottawa.  I have included here with this only the title page of the 43-page psychiatric assessment that I sent to Mr. Sethi.

Brennan Guigue is writing a rebuttal to the claims the institution and NHQ are making. 

The seesaw exchange over the last two months has focused primarily on Brennan’s effort to access mental health care at Port-Cartier.  There is a back story that exacerbates Brennan’s justifiable indignation at his treatment by Correctional Service of Canada. 

The health care unit has for weeks refused to stabilize his suboxone dosage.  Health care diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation months ago, and then ignored it.  Two-and-a-half years ago, he was told a knee required surgery.  You got it.  He’s waiting.

Is it any wonder there are tens of thousands of us in the community who are outraged at Correctional Service of Canada’s intentional neglect of its obligation to us and to the incarcerated.

Charles H. Klassen

There will be a pause while waiting to receive Brennan Guigue’s rebuttal.

Stay tuned.