How much do you want to spend on lawyers?

A few years ago, a federal prison inmate in British Columbia asked for permission to buy a $20 thesaurus. He was taking an educational program where this would help, and although the prison library had a thesaurus, this inmate wanted to have a copy handy for work in the off hours. The institution denied him.

He spoke with a fellow inmate, a certified paralegal, they took Correctional Service of Canada to court and in August of 2010, a judge in a federal court in B.C. found in favour of the inmate. The legal costs for this inmate and his paralegal representative were less than $100. The cost to you for government lawyers to defend CSC was $9028.45.

This is one of scores of similar cases where you are spending your tax dollars to protect a system in need of a ground-up overhaul. Almost all never get media attention.

The Globe and Mail’s July 18, 2015 edition published Sean Fine’s “Thousands of inmates could join lawsuit.” Mr. Fine is one of the papers justice writers, and his story is focused on a 34 year-old federal prisoner with emotional and mental health concerns who is at the centre of a $600-million class-action lawsuit claiming “Canada’s use of solitary confinement and lack of timely access to prescription drugs violate the rights of the mentally ill.” The inmate is in Edmonton Institution but the action was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday, July 18. It could take several months for the court to decide to certify the lawsuit, authorizing it to go forward.

This article goes on to lay out the details for the basis of the claim, citing negligence and breach of the government’s duties toward mentally ill prisoners. It’s not a pretty picture. James Sayce, a Toronto lawyer connected to the action, points out that, “The extreme injuries that these individuals have suffered should be compensated. The fact that they’ve made mistakes in their lives, committed crimes, doesn’t give the government carte blanche to treat them as it sees fit.”

Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Just as you spent $9,000 to prevent an inmate from bettering himself, and will spend a great deal more to face the challenge outlined in this potential class action, these are but two of many, many legal entanglements Correctional Service of Canada is juggling. Even turnoverarocktoday is supporting a claim……see Justice for Brennan Guigue.

Just how much do you want to spend on lawyers before we insist CSC turn a corner toward a more enlightened approach to rebuilding lives?

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