Inmate’s family not sent letter of condolence
Correctional Service Canada (CSC) says it did not send a formal letter to the family of Christopher Van Camp after he was killed at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in June.
In emailed statements to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, CSC spokeswoman Veronique Rioux said the federal agency put a “process” in place as of Sept. 13 to ensure that a letter is used to send condolences to inmates’ next of kin. A commissioner’s bulletin dated Aug. 28 included a formal policy for CSC staff handling funeral arrangements, communications and an inmate’s finances when the inmate dies in custody.
Van Camp, 37, was pronounced dead on June 7 after he was found unresponsive in his cell at the Prince Albert prison. Emergency responders who were called to the prison were unable to revive him. He had been serving a sentence of five years, five months and 12 days for armed robbery, fraud, theft and breaking and entering.
He had been paroled in the spring, but subsequently returned to custody for a breach of conditions stemming from an accidental drug overdose that left him in a coma for five days. Van Camp was back behind bars soon after he emerged from the coma.
His cellmate, Tyler Vandewater, faces a second-degree murder charge in connection with his death.
An internal investigation CSC launched on July 31 is expected to be finalized next month, but it appears the CSC won’t automatically share the findings with Van Camp’s family — they’ll need to file a formal freedom of information request because the report will contain third-party information.
“The next of kin will be provided with information on how to access the investigation report through CSC’s Access to Information and Privacy,” Rioux wrote in an email.
“We are committed to learning all we can to ensure that future deaths can be prevented,” she wrote.
The CSC won’t answer specific questions about the circumstances surrounding Van Camp’s death. Rioux said it would be “inappropriate” to comment about whether he was evaluated and cleared by a prison health professional before he was returned to the general prison population.
The CSC also won’t comment about the litigation it cites as the reason why it won’t answer those questions: a lawsuit filed by Van Camp’s mother, Lauren Laithwaite.
Federal inmates are assessed by a nurse within 24 hours of admission to custody, Rioux wrote. They are then listed to see a physician based on need, and if there’s a need, the doctor will evaluate them within 72 hours. Inmates also receive mental health screening within 24 hours of admission and their mental health status is evaluated within two weeks, she wrote.
According to the CSC, three of the 62 “critical and serious” security incidents at all federal institutions this fiscal year happened at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, which is home to 686 inmates.
We are committed to learning all we can to ensure that future deaths can be prevented.