Correctional Service of Canada – “They don’t care”

AN ILLUSTRATION FROM BEHIND THE WALLS IN TWO PARTS

Writing is one way I vent the frustration I feel over how challenging it is to access mental health services within Correctional Service of Canada.  Contrary to its on-line media page, in reality it is much more difficult than CSC would have the public believe.

As it stands now, an inmate in a ‘bad place’ who tries to get help must first send a written request to their Parole Officer, wait for a call to meet which may take a day, or perhaps two.  Depending on the Parole Officer’s recommendation, the inmate in distress may or may not be granted an audience with a trained mental health professional.  Now, I am just a lowly inmate in CSC’s eyes, but it seems to me that this is not a particularly effective way to help mentally destressed inmates.  However, what do I know.

Most Parole Officers were once guards who require a grade 12 education and no criminal record.  After approximately sixty days of training, and a one-year on-the-job probationary period, successful candidates are officially certified as Correctional Service of Canada guards.  It seems to me that hardly qualifies a guard to decide whether an inmate is in enough distress to require mental health intervention.  It seems to me that determination should be made by a mental health care professional, no?

Basically, anyone can be a prison guard with a minimum of effort.  After nearly 30 years in the federal system, I’ve learned most prison guards employed be CSC are straight-up sociopaths in their attitude and treatment of inmates.  Believing otherwise suggests that racism, for instance, does not exist in Canada.  Who would admit to seeing inmates as nothing more than pieces of s—t?  Let’s face it, it’s ugly to admit to that.  How many racists do you think would feely admit to it?  But, at the end of the day, it’s always there, just under the surface and it governs every decision CSC makes regarding the treatment of it’s wards.

But that’s a whole other conversation.  For now, we are considering inmate access to adequate mental health services.

The whole process I’ve described can take as many as three days at the minimum, but usually more like a week.  CSC tells the world that in cases of extreme distress, where an inmate ideates suicide or intends to hurt themselves or others, there are mechanisms in place for immediate assistance.  Why should it come to that?  Why should an inmate in distress be made to jump through hoops before getting help?  Why wait until the problem reaches those extremes?  CSC policy on mental health services is reactive rather than pro-active.

I should not need to be suicidal to get help for my mental health issues, but it seems to be the only way to be seen in a timely manner by a psychologist or psychiatrist.  However, if an inmate decides to claim that they are suicidal simply to access an audience with the appropriate and qualified professionals, well then, CSC also has an institutional policy for that as well.

The policy in place is to immediately put that inmate into an empty cell, no toilet paper, a concrete slab for a bed.  But first, the inmate is stripped of clothing and given a ‘security smock’ made of untearable fire-retardant material called a “baby-doll.”  Believe me, it is very rough and uncomfortable, and wearers feel extremely exposed and vulnerable.  Is that CSC’s intent?   The inmate remains in this cell for at least 24 hours and as much as 72 hours.  From experience I can tell you that this does nothing to help and is a long and difficult way to get some counselling.

Am I exaggerating, fabricating, misrepresenting?  Absolutely not.  This is not only the truth, but it can easily be substantiated as CSC practice and policy.

As I wrote at the start, I am just trying to vent some negative emotions which stem from being left all on my own to deal with the mental health issues I have.

I challenge you to find any logic for how these practices and policies can help anyone recover or how they could possibly lead to a clean and mentally healthy life.  There are people who say, “Who cares, they’re just low-life criminals.  Let them all rot.”  Well, you should care.  Why?  Less than 10% of all federal inmates will never get out of prison.  Do you want the 90% who will be back on the street one day to be mentally healthy, or at least stable?  Do you?

It’s easy not to care when you’re safely tucked away in your homes and comfortable in your lives.  But what happens when a mentally distraught ex-inmate in a bad way invades that comfortable life, or the life of a loved one?  And yes, drug addiction and alcoholism are symptoms of mental distress, contrary to what some might think.

Do you blame the drug addict who puts others in danger when he commits an armed robbery, or breaks into your home looking for drug money and for items to sell for drugs?  What about the ex-con who has no grasp on the rage which stems from unaddressed childhood trauma and commits a violent act against some innocent victim.  Do you blame him?  Perhaps, and you wouldn’t be wrong. 

Accepting responsibility for criminal acts is the whole point of the criminal justice system, isn’t it?  Yes, it is.  But then, just where is Correctional Service of Canada’s responsibility to service mental health care needs and offer constructive programing to give offenders an opportunity to succeed in the community?  Yes, where is it?

Brennan Guigue, April 19, 2022

PART TWO next week

Ontario Crown Ward Class Action……

..…Against ONTARIO, The Only Defendant.  CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETY Organizations Responsible For Placing And Supervising Crown Wards, And With Authority To Begin Claims On Their Behalf, Is Not A Defendant.  Neither Are Individual Abusers.

A Lesson In How To Seed Criminality Through Abuse And Neglect.

Koskie Minsky LLP filed a statement of claim on January 22, 2014, alleging that Ontario owed Crown Wards who were abused a duty to advise of rights to civil claims (lawsuits) and administrative remedies (the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board).  Ontario is also accused of failing its duty to facilitate and pursue those claims for Crown Wards, when appropriate.

The Superior Court of Justice certified the class action on March 30, 2017, a class that included all persons who became Crown Wards in Ontario between January 1, 1966, and March 30, 2017.

A proposed settlement was reached and dated January 29, 2021.  Brennan Guigue submitted his claim on April 13, 2021.  With his permission and encouragement, this is his complaint, his written responses to 11 questions on the claim form.

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D.O.B.:  June 10, 1970

I wanted to point out that while specific dates, names, and addresses may be difficult to recall, the abuses suffered are quite real and vivid in my recollection. As for certain details of where and when, I’m sure the Children’s Aid Society of Canada must have records that could be researched for verification of Wardship.

Date of Wardship:  I cannot remember exactly, but if I had to give an approximate timeline, it would be some time in the early to mid-70s…..1974, 75, 76.
I know I was young because I remember my mother tried to prevent a court order to surrender custody of us by putting us, my brother Jerry and sister Amber, into the care of her best friend Sue Dietrich (Aunt Suzie), and then boarding us onto a train out to British Columbia.
I remember that night very clearly because my hand got accidently slammed in the cab door by and absent minded taxi driver.
It must have been early because the Hamilton train depot on James Street North was still a main hub as the train we boarded took us all the way out west without having to transfer trains.

Why was I taken from family home?  My mother was a drug addict with all the ugly and unfortunate attributes that come along with that.  Neglect, physical and emotional abuse, etc.  My father, Barry Griffith, was a drug dealer, pimp, and all around p.o.s., a real great guy.

Crown Ward history (where did I live & when):  Upon our arrival in Coquitlam, B.C., we were dropped in the custody of our Aunt Dena (Guigue).  She immediately began to beat us whenever the mood suited her.  Later, we were passed on to our grandfather, Edward Guigue, who also lived in Coquitlam.  Life got a little better in that he did not beat us or abuse us in any way.  In fact, he didn’t bother with us at all.  He concerned himself with attempts to ‘feel up’ Aunt Suzie as a means of a morning wake-up call.  She was around 19 or 20 something at the time.
Eventually CAS of Canada caught up to us when my brother was hit by a car and the hospital notified all the people hospitals are required by law to notify.  We were taken into custody.
Once the three of us were apprehended we were immediately separated and placed in different ‘homes’ to await extradition back to Ontario.
The ‘home’ I was place into is where I heard the word “nigger” for the first time in my life.
It was also the first place I ever took a shower with a grown man; after all “how else was I ever gonna learn how to wash myself it not from another man?”
I was only tall enough to be just about waist high.  How old could I have been?  Not 10 years.  Certainly, too young to be washing a grown man, no?
Next…1982?  Linden, Ontario.

Description of abuse or neglect:  British Columbia – From what I can recall from my time at the ‘home’ in B.C., the ‘caretakers’ consisted of a youngish middle-aged (30-40ish) married couple, at least one bio-child (maybe an infant also), an older woman (perhaps a mother-in-law).  She was the mean one.  I think there was one other ward-child in the home besides me, but I cannot be sure.
It’s funny because I don’t really remember the ‘house mother’ or the husband’s faces.  I only recall the male as a wet body in a cramped shower.  Well, there’s the erections of course, but other than that, and the memories are quite vivid, almost lucid, I couldn’t tell you what he looked like.
I remember the old woman as skinny with a weathered face, and a heavy accent, German or eastern European perhaps.
All I know for sure is that she whipped me for the slightest things (she liked to use one of those woman’s dress belts, real skinny, made of leather.)
Boy, did it sting!
I remember the Ice Capades came to town and the whole bunch of us went to see them perform.  Well, I guess I had shown too much excitement, and she took me into the bathroom stall and whipped my ass for laughing too hard!
Who does that!!!
Her favourite name for me was Black Bastard.  She also beat it into my head that I was “black like shit and your garbage mother doesn’t even want you.”  Like I said before, she was the first person to ever call me a nigger.
Note:  What happened there made it easier for my biological father to molest and sodomize me a few years (2 or 3) later back in Hamilton about age 9 or so.

The home in Linden, Ontario is where I experienced real despair.
I only got beat once there by the ‘house father,’ but it was a bad beating whereas I was slammed into the floor (he straddled me) several times.  It was so bad that I now recognize the symptoms suffered afterwards were that of a concussion.  There I, as well as the other 2 Wards, were locked out in the cold until 7pm at night.  We were starved for food constantly.
It was so bad that I began digging through the lunchroom garbage at school and eating unfinished lunches thrown out by other kids.

Me?  I’m a survivor.
I remember there was a young girl there, about 9 years old, and the “family’s” 18-year-old son used to trade food for sex regularly.
When I discovered it happening and told the ‘house mother,’ I was told to mind my own business.  When I threatened to tell my CAS worker…that’s when I was beaten dizzy.
I eventually ran away.  When my worker…..Mary?….found me at my own home, I told her what was happening in Linden.  My own mother threatened legal action and so ‘Mary’ left me at home, and it was never mentioned again.

Report the Abuse?  See above.

Action Taken?  Not that I’m aware of.

Charges Laid?  Not that I am aware of.

Advised of Right to Litigate?  Nope.

Advised of my right to pursue monies from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board?  Nope.  Why would I have been?  Nobody paid any attention to me unless they were taking something from me or denying something to me.

Did I receive any counselling for my abuse or neglect?  No.  If I had been treated of a sick child rather than a bad kid, then, ABSOLUTELY 100%, I would not have lived the life of shame, self-loathing, and drug addiction that I did.  Nor would I have ended up where I am today.
I believe this with all of my being.
I have been clinically diagnosed as having:-
Borderline Personality Disorder
Complex PTSD (childhood trauma)
Bi-Polar Disorder
Clinical Depression
At least two suicide attempts documented.  Revived.
Anti-Social Personality Disorder
You name it.  Take your pick of one, or all of them if you like.

The Children’s Aid Society of Canada did NOT aid me in any way whatsoever.
I aged out of CAS control in 1988 when I turned 18.

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The Court denied approval of the settlement on May 27, 2021, as several class members objected to the amount of the settlement.  The claim was for over $100 million initially, but the proposal before the Court was for $10 million, and Koskie Minsky’s share would come from that.  A leave to appeal the decision was dismissed on September 21, 2021. 
The case is still active.

There’s nothing more to add, is there.

Prison is no place….to die

On April 2, 2022. Quinn Borde, an inmate from Collins Bay Institution died while in our custody.
At the time of his death, the inmate had been serving a sentence of 23 years for offences relating to attempted murder, firearms, robbery, aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm, and failure to comply, since May 9, 2008.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

On April 8, 2022, Dany Bernatchez, an inmate from Atlantic Institution died while in our custody.
At the time of death, the inmate had been serving a sentence of 13 years and one month since January 19, 2017, for pointing a firearm, disguise with intent, robbery, uttering threats to cause death/harm, assault causing bodily harm, riot, hostage taking, prison breach with violence, break enter and commit, possession of a schedule II substance, prohibited weapon in vehicle, discharge of restricted/prohibited firearm with intent, intimidation of a justice system participant/journalist, failure to comply with probation order, mischief in relation to other property, conspire to commit indictable offence.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

On April 14, 2022, Roger Mathurin, an inmate from Mission Institution died while in our custody.
At the time of death, the inmate had been serving an indeterminate sentence, which commenced on January 9, 1973, for second degree murder, manslaughter, and other offences.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

On April 19, 2022, William Gordon Fell, an inmate from Bath Institution’s Regional Treatment Centre, died while in our custody of apparent natural causes.
At the time of death, the inmate had been serving an indeterminate sentence, which commenced on June 23, 2003, for second degree murder.
The inmate’s next of kin have been notified.

These reports of the deaths of 4 men in the custody of Correctional Service of Canada are from its web site’s home page, in a space allocated to also record newsworthy large seizures of   contraband entering its prisons.  Some time ago, CSC often and usually included the age of the deceased and a cause of death.  That is rarely the case now, but it continues to always label the person as “an inmate” along with the offences for which the inmate was convicted, the length of sentence and the date it began.  The notice always ends with “the inmates next of kin have been notified.”

There is no acknowledgement that the deceased was a person, perhaps with a partner or parents or siblings, was maybe a parent themselves.  CSC can claim privacy prevents some disclosures, although that information is as much a part of the record as what is published.  Or, perhaps CSC just sees inmates as objects warehoused in a cage, rather than clients of its correctional facilities.  No, one should not need convincing that we have a prison industry in Canada and not a correctional service.

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Correctional Service of Canada averages about 58 deaths in custody every year.  There were 53 in the 2021 fiscal year, categorized as 5 murders, 9 suicides, 1 from unnatural (non-natural) causes, and 38 from natural causes.  Just what are natural causes?  A death by natural causes rules out everything external.  The deceased did not take their own life, they were not murdered, and they didn’t die in an accident or from a drug overdose. Death is due to a natural disease process like an infection, cancer, heart disease or all things that take a life.

According to Dr. David Fowler, president of the American National Association of Medical Examiners, “if I’m playing a sport and have a heart attack, or shovel snow and have a heart attack because I stressed myself, that’s natural.”  On the other hand, he added, if shovelling snow caused hypothermia, that could be considered an accident.

The average age of inmates whose death is attributed to natural causes is 60.  The Office of the Correctional Investigator wonders why CSC hasn’t learned from the statistics and developed strategies to prevent premature deaths.  One remedy of course is to treat sick inmates rather than neglecting sound medical practice in favour of putting budget and security interests ahead of lives.

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Adelina Iftene, in her article, “Life and death in Canadian penitentiaries,” published in the October 2020 edition of Canadian Family Physician, points out that inmates over 50 (which is considered geriatric in our prisons) have higher rates of mortality and morbidity for most illnesses.  They experience a process of accelerated aging, have health problems of people 10 to 15 years older in the community, and a life expectancy of around 62 years, compared with the average of 82 years in Canada.

Prisons were never meant to be nursing homes, she says, and yet they are increasingly in that position, a situation that is inhumane, unethical, and legally problematic in her opinion.  This despite the obligation that Correctional Service of Canada must look for alternatives to prison infirmaries when someone becomes terminally ill.  Parole by exception is the only compassionate alternative and is a bureaucratic and lengthy process of little use to the dying.

Acetaminophen with codeine, and morphine are the only pain medications available, according to the CSC National Drug Formulary.  Dr. Iftene cites the example of an inmate with a stage 4 cancer who was transferred to a minimum security from a medium security institution for better care.  Because CSC policy demands new arrivals wait for assessments before meds are prescribed, this inmate was left in his cell for a week, screaming and sweating, with no pain medications at all.  Other inmates collected money to buy regular acetaminophen from the canteen in an attempt to give him relief.

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As for suicides, the numbers in our federal prisons represents only a portion of inmates who are suicidal or ideate suicidal behaviour.   An inmate in distress who looks for help from CSC health care is more than likely to end up in a bare cell, wearing a “baby doll” that can’t be torn, and sleeping on a bare concrete slab until health care staff can be convinced that the urge has passed.  That’s constitute “treatment.”  Yet, CSC rightly claims its phycologists and psychiatrists take up a chunk of its health care budget, but exactly what they are doing and for how many offenders they are doing it is a question looking for an answer.

“They don’t care.”
Seasoned inmates know that underpins the who’s, why’s. where’s, what’s, and when’s of Correctional Service of Canada.
“They don’t care.”