Federal prisons are losing 515 acute-care beds, which are being transferred to provide “intermediate” psychiatric care as Corrections Canada struggles to cope with a crisis of mental illness among offenders.
Last May, as Global News published an investigation showing Canada’s sickest inmates are held in its deadliest prisons, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney pledged to take seriously the treatment of mentally ill inmates – starting with a two-bed pilot project at a facility designed for offenders with severe mental illness.
More than six months later, that two-bed pilot project has yet to materialize. The federal government, for its part, points to an interim agreement for one woman as progress in itself.
Ottawa is considering closing psychiatric beds in federal prisons barely a month after announcing a new strategy on inmates with mental illness, the federal prison watchdog says.
At the same time, it has cut back on nursing hours, even as federal prisons are seeing more assaults, more injuries and more use of force – medical incidents that corrections officers, even ones trained in first aid, aren’t prepared to handle.
May 1, 2014 – Global News
Offenders are more likely to die or be violently attacked in a psychiatric prison than any other federal institution – by a long shot.
The people in these specialized facilities – in B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec – are the most vulnerable and problematic in a prison system already overflowing with mental illness.
And numbers obtained by Global News through an access to information request indicate they’re disproportionately subject to violence and death in the institutions supposedly designed to care for them best.