Corrective Services deals with human rights cases

VANCOUVER – The federal prison service says it is making a number of changes to help inmates addicted to opioids, including giving them faster access to treatment by eliminating long wait lists of hundreds of people. .

Corrections Canada said the changes were made in response to the opioid crisis sweeping Canada and to address a human rights complaint made in 2018.

A complaint filed by Prisoners’ Legal Services in BC alleging that they were denied treatment because of their addiction or had to wait months for treatment.

Nicole Kief, a legal advocate for Prisoners’ Legal Services, said the complaint was filed after more than 75 inmates contacted their office about not having access to treatment.

“In the past, (Fixed Services) really wanted to have security control over how the drugs got out,” Kief said.

Initially the service said its main concern was that inmates would sell drugs to other inmates, she said.

The settlement was reached last month.

“It’s really clear that healthcare providers should act in the best interest of their patients and that they shouldn’t play any role in security, punishment or surveillance.” monitoring, so one of the things that this document does is make that distinction,” said Kief.

Since the onset of the opioid crisis in 2016, the number of people receiving treatment has increased by 185%, the Corrections Authority said in a press release. In response, they hired Dr. Nader Sharifi, an addiction specialist, as national health adviser for the treatment program and agreed to publish the waitlisted figures on a government website.

Sharifi said the current standard of care for opioid addicts is focused on getting people into treatment rather than allowing them to quit. The government’s goal is to eliminate the waiting list in the next few months, he said in an interview.

The latest government data shows 2,684 inmates in federal prisons are being treated as of September 2021, while 351 are still on waiting lists. There are about 12,500 inmates in 43 federal prisons.

Ginette Clarke, the service’s director of health policy and programs, said new waitlist data is released quarterly and will be released later this month.

“We try to manage wait lists,” says Clarke. We prioritize and categorize, and try to learn lessons from places and locations that have been very effective in getting them out. reduce the waiting list to 0″.

The facility with the longest waitlists in September was Saskatchewan Penitentiary with 79 people, followed by Stony Mountain in Manitoba with 40 people, while several other prisons had few or none on their waiting lists.

The department said it is also in the process of implementing several other harm reduction approaches, including making naloxone more widely available and implementing more rehabilitation programs.

“The number of clients incarcerated for an opioid use disorder has increased,” says Sharifi. Reflecting what is happening in the community, a significant number of clients are incarcerated with widespread substance use problems throughout their lives, and opioid use disorder is one of them. that number.”

Research published last month from Simon Fraser University found that the proportion of people in BC prisons with concomitant substance use and mental health disorders accounted for 32% of the population in 2017. , up from 15% in 2009.

Sharifi said the 2017 figure was likely higher due to the continued increase in overdose rates.

Kief said Prisoners’ Legal Services is pleased with the steps the government has taken to tackle addiction in prisons but more needs to be done.

“We are really concerned about the kind of support people are getting while preparing for their release,” Kief said. “They’re not connected to the resources they need to be safe when they show up, so that’s a real concern.”

Kief said one of its clients overdosed and died shortly after being released from prison. Her team is calling on investigators to investigate overdose risks and rates for people who have recently been released.

Sharifi said it was well documented that people were at “very high risk of overdose” in the first 30 days after being released, but steps were being taken to address the issue.

“We make sure that released clients are connected to a health and addiction care provider in the community and have a discharge prescription pre-arranged for them to make sure they don’t have a problem.” ensure that there is no gap in care upon release.


This Canadian Press report was first published on January 12, 2022.

This story was made possible with the financial support of Facebook and the Canada Press News Fellowship.


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