HEALTH CARE/HEALTH DON’T CARE

Getting sick, getting old in our “prison industry.”

In a word, DON’T!

Canada’s provincial and federal penal systems spend tens of millions of dollars each year on health care, including funding for mental health services.

So why then do complaints about health care in our federal system, as an example, top the list of what comes to the attention of the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada, the country’s ombudsman for offenders? There is no equivalent for our provincial jail inmates, no at-arms-length substantive recourse, and complainants who use what processes exist are basically left blowing in the wind.

The law in Canada says that although prisoners are deprived of liberty while they are incarcerated, all other human rights remain intact. Legally, mistreatment of any kind, or lack of proper treatment, is out, and that includes an entitlement to the same access to health care as the rest of us.

Available information from Correctional Service of Canada presents a best profile of conditions affecting the health and end of life issues for CSC’s roughly 14 to 15 thousand offenders. About a quarter, around 3,500, is over 50, and in the agency’s parlance they are ‘senior citizens.’ It admits a prison environment will knock up to 10 years off life expectancies, although inmate lifestyles are a contributing factor of some significance. It doesn’t add that the consequences of inmate poor health choices are exacerbated by the difficulties is accessing institutional health care.

Award winning author Sandra Miller wrote “Our aging prisoners deserve proper health care” for the Globe and Mail last October, noting she’d never considered the way prisoners die until she attended a conference on end of life issues last fall.

The number of older prisoners will rise with time and most who die in custody succumb to cancer, heart attacks or liver failure. She asks why we should care “if an inmate old enough to be somebody’s grandparent dies in a cell without adequate medical treatment, access to appropriate palliative care or medical assistance in dying? I think there are three reasons: compassion, equality and autonomy.”

…….continuing next week……….

“…..no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” NELSON MANDELA

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