Prisons insist……

…..INMATES PAY 2022 PRICES USING 1980 DOLLARS!
BUT PRISONS DON’T TEACH MAGIC.  TOO BAD.

The minimum wage across Canada in 1980 was just over $3.00 an hour.  To give some perspective, as recorded here back in December of 2018, a sampling of 1980 prices listed milk at less than $2 a gallon, bread 50 cents/loaf, bacon $1.75/pound, flour $1.00/5 pounds, ground beef $1.00/pound, peanut butter $1.50/jar, potatoes $1.00/5 pounds, pork and beans 40 cents a can.  To add another context, a downtown apartment in major cities rented for about $250 per month.

At that time, a parliamentary committee established a pay-scale for federal prisoners based on the minimum wage, reduced by allowances for room and board, and other relevant expenses.  Those ‘relevant expenses’ have risen and fallen over the years, depending on the political party in power in Ottawa at any given point, and adjustments in prison industry policy.  For example, Correctional Service of Canada suspended the room and board charge for a period during the COVID pandemic to allow inmates to maintain family ties when no in-person visits were permitted.

Why is money given to federal inmates?  The Act under which the federal prison industry operates says it’s to encourage participation in institutional programs and social reintegration, but it’s not a compensation for work, as that would lead to ‘slave labour’ accusations.  Correctional Service of Canada will say that the money is to help inmates save for their release, help support family, pay for phone calls, supplement diets through canteen purchases, buy toiletries, clothing, tv’s. radios, games or whatever the CSC catalog offers

There’s never been an increase in the pay-scale, federal Conservative governments even made cuts at one point, and other factors have adjusted the figures over time. Basically, an inmate who has no job (there are few available, given the number of potential applicants) and is not involved in programming may end up with about $4 every two weeks.  Another inmate could qualify for ‘welfare pay’ at about $16/two weeks, others in programs or with jobs can see around $44/two weeks.  There are very few inmates at A-level pay, just over $60/two weeks.

Inmates have a $850 annual spending ceiling, although money applied to phone cards is not subject to limits.  Families/friends can and do send money to the incarcerated, but that doesn’t change what can be done with it.  No matter, the prices for whatever can be purchased is at market, the same or like what is available in the community.  So, what is this about saving money, supporting families, or buying canteen, toiletries, and clothing?  Any wonder there is a thriving black market in our federal institutions?

More on money, the assessed value of an inmate’s “cell effects” is capped at $1500.  From a pair of socks to shoes to a desk lamp to a television, the total can’t exceed that number.  The $1500 limit has been in place for at least the last 30 years, and possibly longer.  Again, $1500 bought a lot more in 1990 than it does in 2022.  What will it buy in 2032?

There is no arguing that a prison sentence imposes many restrictions, and limits on the use of money are necessarily a part of it.  But, when an inmate understands that their finances are restricted by policies that haven’t changed or been updated in more than a generation, how can Correctional Service of Canada claim it’s meeting a rehabilitative and correctional mandate?

The answer as always of course is that CSC doesn’t care, and with that, how can an offender not tell the prison industry, and the government that pretends to oversee its operation, and the society it represents, to turn around and bend over?

We deserve that.

Does drilling down over and over on these systemic failures ever become tedious?  No, not when what’s at stake is right over wrong!

Prison health care….not giving up….

…..NOT GIVING IN.

Last week’s entry ended with a June 19 letter to Derek Janhevich at the Office of the Correctional Investigator in Ottawa.  Brennan Guigue was not happy with the outcome of his meeting with the investigator the OCI sent to Port-Cartier Institution.

In the meantime, another letter went to the health services commissioner at Correctional Service in Ottawa, a follow-up to a June 24 letter published here on July 3.

 July 1, 2022

Mr. Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner,
Health Services,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

 Re:       Brennan Guigue

 Dear Mr. Sethi:

 Further to my June 24th letter in response to yours dated May 24th, Brennan Guigue has authorized, approved, and requested I send you the enclosed psychiatric assessment.

 This is a December 23rd, 2016, 43-page, court-ordered psychiatric assessment authored by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen (no relation), intended to inform the Court as it weighed the evidence in the criminal proceedings against Brennan.  This was requested by the Crown and was Brennan Guigue’s last psychiatric evaluation.

 Your letter claims that Brennan “was last assessed by a psychiatrist at Millhaven Institution on October 5, 2020.”  That was a part of an inmate transfer process consisting of two/three questions.  Was he suicidal?  Was he thinking of self harm?  Did he ideate suicidal thoughts?  If the answer is “no”, then he was good to go.

 You and Correctional Service of Canada label that a psychiatric assessment?  Really?

 Likewise, upon arrival at every federal institution, a nurse asks the same questions of each offender.  So, those nurses, and the health care unit at every institution, along with you and CSC, consider that a psychiatric assessment?  You no doubt expect me to accept that this passes for health care and is compliant with the CCRA.

 Shame on you.  Shame on Correctional Service of Canada.

 Charles H. Klassen

Yes, a 43-page psychiatric assessment was sent with this letter, a report written by a doctor with a practice in forensic psychiatrist who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Toronto.  The point in sending this to Mr. Sethi was to differentiate between what Correctional Service of Canada calls a psychiatric assessment from what, in fact, is a psychiatric assessment.

The next day, a follow-up letter was sent to Nadia Pelletier. In charge of the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution.

July 2, 2022

Mrs. Nadia Pelletier, A/Programs, Health Care Services,
Port-Cartier Institution,
Port-Cartier, QC  G5B 0N2

Re:       Brennan Guigue

Dear Mrs. Pelletier:

My May 9th letter to Health Care Services Chief at Port-Cartier Institution was answered by Mr. Manjeet Sethi at Health Services at NHQ Ottawa on May 24th.  I’ve enclosed a copy although you may already have a duplicate.

I’ve also enclosed copies of my two letters to Mr. Sethi in response, dated June 24th and July 1st.  I did not include here a copy of Brennan Guigue’s December 23, 2016, psychiatrist assessment.

“I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs.”  This is how Mr. Sethi ended his letter.  This is blatantly untrue.  On just one point, when did Brennan Guigue last see Dr. Cote?

While this concerns the care Brennan Guigue is not receiving, it exemplifies what is also the case for other inmates in Port-Cartier, and in every Correctional Service of Canada facility from coast to coast to coast.  Numerous studies castigate the Agency’s health care programs as non-compliant with the CCRA mandate, making too often for poor outcomes on the one hand and fodder for litigation on the other.

Would that it was not so.

Charles H. Klassen

Derek Janhevich in Ottawa was copied on those two letters.

July 12, 2022

Derek Janhevich,
Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Re:      Brennan Guigue

Dear Director Janhevich:

I’ve enclosed two follow-up letters regarding Brennan’s Guigue’s lack of health care at Port-Cartier Institution.

One is to Nadia Pelletier, Health Care Services at Port-Cartier Institution, while the second is to Manjeet Sethi, Assistant Commissioner at CSC NHQ in Ottawa.  I have included here with this only the title page of the 43-page psychiatric assessment that I sent to Mr. Sethi.

Brennan Guigue is writing a rebuttal to the claims the institution and NHQ are making. 

The seesaw exchange over the last two months has focused primarily on Brennan’s effort to access mental health care at Port-Cartier.  There is a back story that exacerbates Brennan’s justifiable indignation at his treatment by Correctional Service of Canada. 

The health care unit has for weeks refused to stabilize his suboxone dosage.  Health care diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation months ago, and then ignored it.  Two-and-a-half years ago, he was told a knee required surgery.  You got it.  He’s waiting.

Is it any wonder there are tens of thousands of us in the community who are outraged at Correctional Service of Canada’s intentional neglect of its obligation to us and to the incarcerated.

Charles H. Klassen

There will be a pause while waiting to receive Brennan Guigue’s rebuttal.

Stay tuned.

Prison health care?

DON’T KID YOURSELF!

“Federal prisons…..MAKE’EM CARE?” posted here on June 12 included a May 9 letter to the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution, which was copied to CSC’s regional office in Quebec, the national headquarters in Ottawa, the correctional investigator, and others.

This is the May 9 covering letter also posted on June 12 that was sent to the correctional investigator with his copy of the Port-Cartier letter:-

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 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.

The correctional investigator’s office was the first to respond in a May 20 letter over Derek Janhevich’s signature:-

Mr. Charles H. Klassen,
Toronto, Ontario

On behalf of Dr. Zinger, thank you for reaching out to our Office,

While you indicate that you interaction with our Office is not a formal complaint, please allow me to note that we will nonetheless trat it as an issue that warrants further examination.  As always, the matter will be raised in a discrete manner while also ensuring the importance of the issue.

The Senior Investigator assigned to Port-Cartier is set to visit the institution soon and is aware of your concerns.  We will make an effort to meet with Brendan (sic) and will most certainly raise the matters with the Warden and the Chief of Health Care Services.

I noticed that you have also included the relevant stakeholders in your letter, including the Assistant Commissioner Health Services, with whom we continue to have numerous discussions on the exact issues you raise.

The mental health needs of patients residing in federal correctional facilities continues to be a top priority for our Office,

Sincerely,

Derek Janhevich
OCI, Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec

What came out of that?

June 19, 2022

Derek Janhevich,
Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Thank you for acknowledging my May 9 letters to Dr. Zinger and the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution. 

Manjeet Sethi, Acting Assistant Commissioner-Health Services wrote on behalf of Correctional Service of Canada on May 24.  I was offended by his lack of accurate and complete information regarding Brennan Guigue’s care, or more accurately, Brennan’s non-care, knowing too that this is an issue with hundreds and perhaps thousands of CSC prisoners.  I will address that with him.

**In the meantime, Brennan did meet with your Senior Investigator last week during his visit to Port-Cartier.  It did not go well from Brennan’s perspective.  Brennan said, “I sat there talking to him for ten minutes.  ‘I can’t help you,’ was his answer.  Useless.” 

It’s a challenge to be polite here given that the deficiencies in prison health care are so widely known and explain in part why the average age of death from natural causes in CSC custody is 60.  CSC cannot be unaware of its neglect while it intentionally ignores and deflects the calls for reform from many authors, including the OCI.

I appreciate the attention you’ve given this matter.

(**emphasis is ours)

The Office of the Correctional Investigator can only make recommendations to Correctional Service of Canada.  It has no authority to impose change.  All the same, their lack of support in the face of CSC neglect and intransigence is surprising.

This is not over.

Prison health care units……

…..WANT US TO BELIEVE THEY CARE.  They want us to believe they are acting according to the provisions in the Corrections & Conditional Release Act (CCRA).

“Federal prisons…..make’em care” on June 12 included a May 9 letter sent to Port-Cartier Institution’s Health Care Services Chief critical of the lack of mental health care services available to Brennan Guigue specifically and other inmates in general.  An addendum listed six individuals who were copied, along with covering letters for three on the list.

Within days of that letter’s arrival in Port-Cartier, Brennan Guigue was called to the institution’s health care unit to sign a release, allowing Correctional Service of Canada to respond.  Their answer came by letter dated May 24 from CSC National Headquarters in Ottawa.

To avoid any hint of biased editing, the complete response is copied here:-

May 24, 2022

Dear Mr. Klassen,

Thank you for your correspondence of May 9, 2022, addressed to Chief of Health Services at Port-Cartier Institution.  In your letter, you raise concerns about mental health services management and treatment for your adopted son, Brennan Guigue, while incarcerated at Port-Cartier Institution.

I am responding to your correspondence on behalf of the Chief of Health Services at Port-Cartier Institution.

According to documentation in Mr. Guigue’s electronic health care records, he was last assessed by a psychiatrist at Millhaven Institution on October 5, 2020.  The psychiatrist noted that Mr. Guigue was stable and no further psychiatric follow-up was required, however guidance was provided for him on how to access Mental Health Services if needed.

In November 2021, Mr. Guigue was transferred to Port-Cartier Institution.  On arrival, his health care records were reviewed by Health Services.  His diagnoses were noted, his medications were continued accordingly and his mental health needs were assessed as low.  Since then, Mr. Guigue has not voiced any mental health concerns to staff nor has he submitted a request to be assessed by Mental Health Services.  He is assessed by the nursing staff and the institutional physician as needed and his condition is described as stable.

In regards to the concerns you raised for referrals submitted by Parole Officers, correctional staff can submit a mental health referral if necessary.  Commissioner’s Directive 800 entitled Health Services, paragraph 11(a), requires all institutional staff/contractors to inform a health care professional of the condition of any offender who appears to have a physical or mental health care concern, whether or not the offender identifies a health concern.  However, there is no CSC policies stating that only Parole Officers can make such referrals.  The individuals federally incarcerated are provided with the information on how to access Health Services along with the process on how to submit an Inmate’s Request on admission and transfers to CSC institutions.

I would like to assure you that the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is mandated, under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), to provide every inmate with essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential health care.  Our comprehensive legal and policy framework outlines what we must do to deliver our essential services and I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs.

Thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner Health Services.

To a lay person, this would appear to be a reasonable response to issues raised in the May 9th letter.  To everyone with CSC experience, it’s offensive.

June 24, 2022

Mr. Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner,
Health Services,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

Re:       Your May 24 letter re Brennan Guigue.

Dear Mr. Sethi:

I feel confident that I first dipped my toe into advocacy and activism before you were born, and certainly before Brennan Guigue in 1970. 

Over time, my focus honed primarily on prisons and the justice system, particularly after Brennan was adopted.  His health care needs were not being met by the practices in place, practices not always compliant with policy.  And so it is too with many others in the system.  This isn’t conjecture.  You have at least the same reports, studies, findings, and recommendations that are in my files.

As for Brennan Guigue, I appreciate you have only what’s been put in front of you to form a response to my May 9th letter.  At a minimum, I’d characterize your material as incomplete.  From your May 24 letter, “I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs,” is factually incorrect.  But that is not for me to argue here.

It is notable that our exchange of letters drew only upon Brennan’s concern for his psychological well-being, and CSC’s response to that.  His physiological challenges include a diagnosed but untreated condition that’s potentially lethal, but again, that’s not relevant here.

Mr. Sethi, what is important is you have, as an officer in the national headquarters of Correctional Service of Canada, offered an interpretation of health care policy and its practices, as well as an address to one specific circumstance.

For that I thank you.

Charles H. Klassen

There will be a frank second letter to Mr. Sethi. 

Before that though, what’s next is Brennan Guigue’s experience with the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s examination of this claim.

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

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.

)()(

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.

)()(

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.