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.”

One thought on “Prison is no place….to die

  1. So, what can be done to stop the corruption, neglect and abuse by CSC? You’ve been dedicated to bringing justice to inmates for many years and yet CSC continues to behave as an independent corporation without regard for humanity or the law of the land. No problem can be corrected unless it starts at the top and unless the PM acts and stops the verbal vomit with bottomless promises, the system will remain as is.

    Like

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