……TO BE UNHEALTHY, SICK, OR INJURED.
Health care services in our federal prisons have been skewered here before, just as what Correctional Service of Canada passes off as essential care for offenders has and is also harpooned by its many critics. And while health care consistently invites the greatest number of complaints from inmates, the Service continues to follow the beat of its own drummer in the face of recommendations that would improve outcomes and reduce costs.
One can wonder why. Well, perhaps not. Speculation infers troublesome scenarios suggesting CSC has interests that trump its mandate to work for a successful reintegration of prisoners back into the community. No matter. Voices of concern will persist, knowing a day of reckoning will come. Hell will freeze over.
The Canada Health Act specifically excludes federal prisoners from its definition of “insured person.” The Corrections and Conditional Release Act assign Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) the obligation to ensure prisoners receive essential health services and care contributing to rehabilitation and social reintegration. CSC is self-insured for health care services. It’s both insurer and hospital. Funding comes from its budget. As Leandra Keren wrote in a Toronto Star contribution last December, this “result(s) in a health-care standard that is woefully inadequate inside our federal prisons.”
She went on to note that prison populations have more severe needs….high rates of addiction and other mental illnesses, high HPV rates, chronic diseases, and conditions connected to aging. “….federal prisoners wait months to see a physician who may not believe in employing a harm reduction approach to treating addiction, or who denies you a prescription that you’ve been taking for decades before arriving at prison due to pressure from CSC surrounding cost and security.” In practice, this means the prisoner is at the mercy of the health services CSC provides.
An inmate fills out a request form asking to see a doctor, dentist, nurse. Then the wait. The wait may generate a second request. Hopefully, the inmate is taken to health services before either their release date or death, whichever is first. In one instance a few years ago, an inmate asked a nurse what they do with an urgent or emergency request. “We don’t pay attention to that,” she told him.
A report released last year authored by academics Jane B. Sprott, Anthony N. Doob, and Adelina Iftene on prison solitary confinement practices included a comment that applies to the whole prison arena. “Many Canadians do not care how our prisoners are treated. They are seen simply as people who committed offences. But Canadians should care if they care about human rights; or if they care that a government organization is being allowed to operate outside of the law.”
Prison health care earns severe scrutiny. There’s more to come next time.
A POSTSCRIPT to “Prisons & Racism” from October 10, 2021:-
“CSC management and staff treat racialized staff as though they are inmates, and not like equals.”
Well, that’s a mouthful. It’s from the statement of claim supporting a proposed class-action lawsuit against Correctional Service of Canada by its own employees, filed on January 11 of this year. According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Aden Klein, his firm has been contacted by many potential class members. “It seems that the racism is so widespread that there are a countless number of people that are affected,” he said to Global News on January 28.
Correctional Service of Canada’s response included, “racism and discrimination have absolutely no place in our society,” and, “CSC does not tolerate these behaviours and is committed to providing a workplace that is healthy, supportive and free of harassment and discrimination.”
The lawsuit must be certified by the court if it can proceed, and that can often take from one to three years.
Imagine. If CSC’s staff feel compelled to act against their employer, what does that say about how CSC treats inmates, and racialized inmates particularly?