Lost in prison.

LOST BY PRISON.

Troubled kids become angry teenagers and that can make for violent adults.  Just so, our prison industry is the dumping ground for what we allow our criminal justice system to see as society’s detritus.  And to salve our collective conscience in the face of failed interventions to right the wrongs we see around us, we charge our prisons to rehabilitate the lost and damaged and send them back to us ‘fixed.’

We could wish that’s the way it is.

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Global News released the findings of a study in November of this year into an Ontario group home chain and the overmedicating of the teens and pre-teens in its care.  Investigators Andrew Russell, Carolyn Jarvis and Michael Wrobel scrutinized the practices of for-profit Hatts Off, the second largest operator of group homes for youth in Ontario.  Former clients claim drugs and lots of them was the help they got in response to the problems that brought them into Ontario’s child welfare system. 

“Experts say intensive therapy is needed for kids to heal from the trauma and abuse, or to live with mental health disorders,” the Global report says.  Drugs have a role but the counselling and treatment that should be the primary counter was in short supply if available at all.  About 20 former staff and youth confirmed the use of psychotropics was “widespread” and melatonin supplements was also on the menu as a sleep aid. 

Further, this report tells us that overall, 75% of kids in care in the province’s foster and group homes take behaviour-altering drugs.  We’re allowing our government to mask the problems these children and youth face rather than budgeting for the mental health care that can give them the opportunities to live productively and positively in the community with on-going access to mental health resources as needed.

Drugged, untreated teenagers who age-out of child welfare can easily become fodder for our criminal justice system and the prison industry.  And they do, in large numbers.  That’s costly to us all, but is there a method to this madness?

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The August 28 posting, “One prison……One health care follow-up”, continued inmate Brennan Guigue’s quest for health care in as many as nine Canadian prisons.

“Inmate requests for mental health care are triaged, Brennan learned, and with limited staff in high-needs prison populations, access can be worse than in the community.  Brennan has been waiting for years.  Except for CSC’s five or six treatment centres, these conditions are the norm in the system.  Port Cartier, for instance, has one psychiatrist who is in-house one day every month or two, plus two staff psychologists.”

Correctional Service of Canada’s treatment centres house offenders diagnosed with serious mental health disorders, often with serious impairments.  Given the high rate of mental/emotional health conditions in the general prison population, the system is not designed to provide even basic counselling services to the many inmates who are looking for help.

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So, we put “sick” kids under government care where they’re frequently looked on as “bad” kids, use drugs as a control, pay lip service to healing, and then release them to a world in which they too often cannot cope.  Many end up in our prisons where they are warehoused, prescribed drugs, if they are even able to access mental health care resources, and then released back into a community that worries about crime.

Should we expect otherwise?

What would happen if Correctional Service of Canada, (1) met its mandates under the Corrections & Conditional Release Act in the trenches as its Ottawa headquarters claims it is, (2) enforced its Commissioner’s Directives, and (3) required the members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers to work in concert with CSC to meet those mandates?

The method in the madness is in the answer.

The next posting is January 8.

 

 

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