The prison industry & media attention

WHY IS CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA AFRAID to let in the light?  Why is it concerned about inmates speaking to the press?  Why is Minister Mendicino not bothered by the delay in releasing the revised Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations?

The changes to CD 022 haven’t come up here since an addendum to the February 27, 2022, posting, “Justice & Prisons….in the news #3.”  There, a February 21 letter to the community safety minister referenced CSC spokesperson Colette Cibula February 8th letter where she wrote, “I can assure you that it is now nearly complete.”

Back on May 6 of last year we told CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly that, “It has been at least a year since you undertook this review….this project is relatively minor…but the changes will also eliminate any suspicion that the Service is trying to prevent inmate contact with the media…..”  Is the two-and-a-half-year span from initiating a CD 022 review without publishing an update a move CSC hopes will blunt expectations, or is this delay simply bureaucratic gridlock?

Time to bring this to the front burner again:-

June 18, 2022

Colette Cibula, Associate Assistant Commissioner,
Communications & Engagement, Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

Re:      Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations

Dear Ms. Cibula:

The third paragraph of Commissioner Kelly’s February 24, 2020, letter to Correctional Investigator Zinger began, “A revision to CD 022 is currently underway.”  The fifth paragraph ended, “We expect that the revised CD 22 will be available by the end of June 2020.”

The Commissioner was responding to Dr. Zinger’s December 18, 2019, letter with his concerns for the media relations directive.  At the time she wrote, Ms. Kelly seemed to anticipate a six-month turnaround, but she could not of course foretell COVID-19’s impact on the process.

Your February 8, 2022, email to me noted the revision to CD 022 was “still underway,” but was “nearly complete,” and CSC was “finalizing internal reviews” before publication.  It’s now two-and-a-half-years from the OCI’s letter, the on/off COVID protocols have eased, and there’s been four months to complete internal assessment. 

I write simply to stress the interest some quarters in the community have for an imminent circulation of the revised CD.

Yours truly,

Commissioner Anne Kelly, Minister Mendicino, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator were copied, of course.

As a by the way, Ms. Cibula’s February 8 letter, referred to the “renewal” of CD 022 as “still underway.”  She continued, “It was delayed as the tempo of media relations as well as the need for communications with inmates, staff, stakeholders increased significantly during the pandemic.”

Inmates?  This infers inmates were consulted in the process.  It’s unusual for CSC to care what inmates think but that seems to be what Ms. Cibula indicates.  We submitted an information request on April 20 asking for the number of inmates involved in the communications, and in which institutions they are housed.  To date, there’s hasn’t even been an acknowledgement, but the difficulty in getting information from the federal government in any and all its bodies is coming under increasing criticism.

Would you believe Correctional Service of Canada still says its health-don’t-care is health care?  That’s next.



FEDERAL PRISONS…where racism has a home.

Canada’s Auditor-General Karen Hogan added her voice to charges that Correctional Service of Canada facilities “haven’t taken action” to address systemic racist barriers faced by Indigenous and Black prisoners.  Her report, released on May 31, is only the latest condemnation of our prison industry’s practices in its treatment of racialized offenders.

Over the last 20 years, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, Status of Women Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Public Safety Canada, and the Auditor-General’s office, along with academic studies, have released numerous findings and reports citing outstanding issues with the prison industry’s attitude towards Black and Indigenous prisoners.  From the moment they come under CSC control, these men and women are more often sent to higher security institutions compared to their white peers and aren’t paroled as often as others when they first qualify for early release.

A Globe and Mail 2020 investigation found that Correctional Service of Canada’s risk-assessment tools, for instance, continued to be systemically biased against Black and Indigenous inmates.  All the while, CSC acknowledges the concerns that come to its attention, agrees there are steps to be taken, and will even move to initiate apparent remedies.  Nonetheless, from day one to warrant expiry, racialized men and women are held hostage by intransigent internal elements seemingly impervious to the demands for change.

Last year, a proposed class-action lawsuit was filed against the federal government on behalf of tens of thousands of current and former prisoners for its racist and discriminatory use of risk mechanisms.

Correctional Service of Canada can no longer be trusted to do what it must, some who study prison environments say.  Change must come from “higher government echelons”, they say.  What does that suggest about the lack of government oversight of federal prisons all along?  Is CSC free to run its own show?

Okay, so now Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has finally “ordered” CSC to establish the position of a deputy commissioner of Indigenous corrections.  That’s a start.  CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly has told the minister she’s on board and the minister “expects the CSC will hit the ground running to……work to address systemic racism and the overrepresentation of Black and racialized Canadian and Indigenous peoples in the justice system.”

But hold on.  CSC spokesperson Esther Mailhot, probably one of the agency’s communications and engagement staffers, reported that while they’re in the process of setting up this new office, she added that this is a “complex issue.”

Red light, red light.  We dropped off a letter to the minister:

June 5, 2022

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Constituency Office,
Toronto, ON  M6A 1A3

Re:      Deputy commissioner for Indigenous corrections.

Minister Mendicino:

I have a February 24. 2020 letter from CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly to Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger, in response to his of December 18, 2019.  Ms. Kelly’s letter confirms that a revision to Commissioner’s Directive C-022 – Media Relations is underway to make it Charter compliant, as Dr. Zinger recommended.  The Commissioner expected the revision would be available by the end of June 2020.  As of now, no revision has appeared.

Okay, so COVID slowed things down but for how long would the government allow productivity to be impacted by the virus?  I have a February 8, 2022, email from Associate Assistant Communications & Engagement Commissioner Colette Cibula addressing the delay. “The renewal,” she wrote, “is still underway.  It was delayed as the tempo of media relations as well as the need for communications with inmates, staff, stakeholders increased significantly during the pandemic.  I can assure you that is now nearly complete.  We have conducted external consultations and are finalizing internal reviews before publishing it.”

As for your order to have CSC establish an office of deputy commissioner of Indigenous corrections, CSC spokesperson Esther Mailhot said this is a complex issue that requires collaboration, including with various levels of government and Indigenous communities.

How many years do you think will pass before you notice nothing has happened?

Yours truly,

Oh, that’s right.  The ‘new’ media relations policy has still not been published.
That’s next.

Federal prisons……

…..MAKE’EM CARE?

Brennan Guigue had something to say here about prison industry health care over the last two weeks, and what he had to say could pass as only an introduction to what could be said.  And what could be said could be said by thousands of offenders behind the walls.

We jumped in too……

May 9, 2022

Chief of Health Care Services,
Port-Cartier Institution,
Port-Cartier, QC  G5B 0N2

Re:  Brennan Wayne Guigue, FPS#104902C

Health Care Services Chief:

Brennan Guigue is my adopted son.  His FPS # dates from 1993 with his first incarceration.

He has a long history of interactions with health care services in several institutions.  There continues to be unresolved issues with his physical health, but I write here about a recent request he made for help with his mental health.

He asked health care at Port-Cartier for an appointment with a mental health care professional about 2/3 months ago.  He was told his parole officer would have to make a referral.  Does Correctional Service of Canada now rank parole officers as health care professionals?  Really?  I doubt parole officers are qualified to make inmate health care decisions; that is, if a parole officer even deigns to see a client.  As it was, his request for a referral went nowhere.

Brennan Guigue diagnoses include borderline personality disorder, complex PTSD (childhood trauma), bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, and anti-social personality disorder.  This is a part of his file unless a CSC staffer somewhere overuses a ‘delete’ key.  Yet, despite many requests over long years, he has never received any psychological/psychiatric treatment.  And please don’t suggest he file a grievance.  That process is simply a sop.

Brennan Guigue’s mental health challenges are at the root of his criminality, just as it is with hundreds of men and women in custody who, like him, want help.  But Correctional Service of Canada opts out of opportunities to improve offender outcomes and boost public safety.

I wonder why that is?

Charles H. Klassen

This was worthy of sharing with others on the same date, others like:-

Jennifer Wheatley, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services,
Correctional Service of Canada, National Headquarters,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

…..and,

Regional Director, Health Services, Correctional Service of Canada,
Regional Headquarters, Quebec,
Laval, QC  H7N 5Y3

…..and, with an added covering letter,

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1) 6L4

Enclosed is a copy of a May 9, 2022, letter to the Chief of Health Care Services at Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec, where my son, Brennan Guigue is incarcerated.

This is not a complaint on behalf of my son.  I’m simply sharing my annoyance after decades of advocacy and as I enter the late stages of my life that CSC seems impervious to the sound of any voice but its own.

Mark Twain is reported to have said, “When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained.”  Brennan, who is adopted and half indigenous, gets tired of telling me that when I ask ‘why’ questions about what goes on with Correctional Service of Canada, I must begin by reminding myself that, “They don’t care.”  By starting with that, the mysteries disappear, and CSC stands explained.

I’ll buy that.

Thank you for the work you do.

…..and, also with a covering letter,

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Community Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

The enclosed letter is self-explanatory, and it’s not sent to you for comment.  Indeed, I suspect this will not be put in front of you.  The self-interests of the ministry bureaucracy you oversee won’t benefit from a wider distribution.

As such, the people on your staff who direct you and guide your purpose are more properly responsible for the harm they do.  You and your recent predecessors permit the manipulations that compel your support of their designs to thwart the restructure and reform of Correctional Service of Canada, to the detriment of all Canadians and the security of our communities.

For that, the Ministry of Community Safety is shamed and shameful.

…..and, again with a covering letter,

Patrick White, The Globe and Mail,
Toronto, ON  M5A 1L1

The attached is self-explanatory.  I’m including you in the distribution simply to share my annoyance with our prison industry.

I passed my 80th birthday in March, and with decades of advocacy behind me, and coping with a federal government agency that must be dragged screaming and flailing toward change and reform, I see no reason to be polite with obstinate public servants.  As it is, CSC does its best to work around what is forced upon it.

Have you ever had exchanges with one of their “communications and engagement” personnel?  Now that’s a treat.

….and, of course, Brennan Guigue was copied, too.

Ten days after these letters were dispatched, Brennan Guigue was called to the institution’s health care unit to sign a release form, freeing CSC to discuss his file.  To date, there’s been no contact from anyone involved with Correctional Service of Canada..

The Office of the Correctional Investigator was the first to respond.  That’s for another time.

 

 

“They don’t care.” PART II – An illustration……

……FROM BEHIND THE WALLS

The Correctional Service of Canada

Study this name.  What does it tell us about its purpose?  This name suggests the government of Canada operates a “service” for the benefit of society that attempts to “correct” and “rehabilitate” the behaviour of incarcerated offenders, the men and women who violate the law.  Some would claim it’s an obligation our government has to its citizens.

With that, one might argue that CSC has a responsibility to society to release people from prison who are, for one, healthier than when they were initially incarcerated.  The truth though is that Correctional Service of Canada washes its hands of paroled inmates’ health care, even with a residency requirement in a half-way house.

I know this to be because I’ve been released on parole on more than one occasion, as have many inmates.

I will never forget when I was released from a prison in Quebec while in the middle of treatment for Hep C.  This was way back when the regimen consisted of a combination of injections along with oral medications (Ribavirin and Interferon).  I was to reside at a Montreal area half-way house, formally called a C.C.C., a Community Correctional Centre.  I believe it was the Ogilvy House in Parc-Extension.  Before leaving the prison, I asked about continuing the treatment in the community and was given assurances that it was “all taken care of.”  I was handed a parcel of documents and appointment slips for a clinic in Montreal, l’Actuel.

However, when I reached the half-way house and went to what I had thought was an arranged appointment at l’Actuel to resume that treatment, I found there was in fact no appointment listed, and that they had no idea who I was.  But, if I wanted a consultation with an infectious disease specialist, they would be happy to oblige, provided I paid the $62.00 consultation fee.

I was fresh out of prison and the only income I had was the $98.00 weekly food & transportation allowance provided by the half-way house, I couldn’t possibly afford such an expenditure.  In my frustration and disappointment, I returned to the half-way house to ask my then Parole Officer to simply explain why, after showing the clinic all the paperwork given to me by the prison, I was having so much difficulty in obtaining adequate health services in the community?  Why would the prison health department go through the motions of providing me with all this meaningless paperwork if in fact they had no intention of helping me once I was released.  Basically, she told me that providing me with adequate health care services was not her problem.

It seemed incredibly ridiculous to me that as a ward of CSC, residing in one of their community facilities, and receiving a food allowance from them, that I would actually have received a better quality of health services if I had remained in prison.

This exchange with my Parole Officer was recorded as a “negative interaction”, and later listed as one of the deciding factors…a deteriorating attitude and arrogance…when the ‘house’ sent me back to prison.  Was I wrong to assume that being a ward of CSC should afford me at least the same level of service in the community as I could expect to receive if I were still incarcerated?

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Staffers at CSC half-way houses do not help ex-offenders reintegrate.  They’re in place to find reasons to suspend a parole and send their charges back to prison, where they await a review by the Parole Board.  Brennan Guigue had found a job on the production line of a company in the Montreal suburbs that manufactured heavy duty shelving for industrial use.  He took the subway and two buses to get to and from his afternoon shift.  He lost the job when his parole was lifted.

As it turned out, I was returned to the community and to that same half-way house after about 98 days in Donaconna Institution because once I was before the Parole Board for my hearing, it could not find a reason NOT to revoke my suspension.

This is a true accounting of this incident.  It really happened as described and without any exaggeration.

My experience is not unique with just this one occasion.  No matter how small the reason, it serves to demonstrate CSC’s mentality as it skirts its responsibilities whenever an opportunity presents itself.

I’ve been rambling on and on for hours.  It has been very therapeutic.  I no longer feel like smashing my head against the nearest wall.

Brennan Guigue, April 19. 2022