“……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

Picking up from last week with the fate of terminally ill inmates, there is a provision in Section 121 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act permitting compassionate parole for the terminally ill.

Of the 542 federal prison deaths between 2007 and 2017, ill health killed 366.  These inmates might/could/should have qualified for release to community hospice care under the CCRA.  However, only four or five compassionate paroles are granted each year, and the rest died before parole boards processed decisions.  Really?  A terminally ill man or woman without palliative care, and Mickey Mouse pain management, must have a parole board decision?  (Research shows that 50 per cent of prisoners in chronic or acute pain are given nothing stronger than Tylenol 3s.)

As for MAID, Correctional Service of Canada may still not have an assisted death policy, and inmates could have to secure a compassionate parole, and then await transfer to the community before applying.  According to a CSC spokesperson last fall, there have been six requests, but only one inmate met the criteria and that prisoner was already in the community.  The inmate died before the hospital could provide the procedure.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that delay, and we shouldn’t be surprised that CSC health care would prefer that no inmate meets MAID criteria.

We should be concerned….alright, we should be outraged….that our domesticated animals have greater legal safeguards around death and dying than the men and women in our jails and prisons.

As it is, dying in prison today means dying alone, dying without best care, and dying with only a few strangers lingering in the distance.

Now, turning to health care issues for the living……..

Spokespeople for Correctional Service of Canada, and its counterparts in the provinces, have always insisted the men and women in their custody….and care….have the same access to health care that is available to us all.  What’s on paper tends to support the claim….practice and delivery say otherwise.

We’ll flesh this out next week.


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