And there it is again: a convicted criminal asking for additional jail time, the hardship of jail time outside this province and away from family, to avoid psychiatric care in this province’s prison system.
You may not have any sympathy whatsoever for Michelle Gushue, who, after a string of fraud-related charges, was given a three-year sentence for her crimes. But you might want to pay attention to one part of her lawyer’s argument: CBC has reported she maintains she was the subject of “institutional torture” when her psychiatric drugs were cancelled by prison psychiatrist Dr. David Craig.
It’s far from the first time the issue has been raised. In January 2012, a judge actually ordered that a prisoner be given access to their regular psychiatrist and medications, rather than undergo treatment from Craig.
“It has to be clear to prison authorities that, if the courts of this province are incarcerating individuals with mental health issues, the necessary infrastructure programs and medications required to keep inmates healthy have to be provided for them, under proper supervision,” Judge Wayne Dymond ruled.
Prisoners have complained that Craig regularly halts medication. A peer review in 2012 looked into Craig’s practices and reported that, “Overall Dr. Craig meets the standard of care, where that standard is comparable service provision in other provinces.”
That review came after the province’s citizens’ representative, Barry Fleming, investigated prisoners’ concerns.
“(We) came to the conclusion that it was unfair for the inmates to have to go through a particular process of having their psychiatric medication reduced or eliminated once incarcerated,” Fleming said in 2013. Still, we keep hearing the same refrain. In 2014, a prisoner was deemed by a judge to have undergone undue hardship in prison after being taken off his prescribed medication.
Prisoners who have been willing to talk have been even more blunt. Take the case of Doug Squires, who told the CBC he was taken off depression and anxiety drugs by Craig. Fearing he might end up in Craig’s care after he cut his wrists, he begged police not to take him to jail.
“All I was saying was, please don’t take me to Dr. Craig, please don’t take me down to jail, they’re going to torture me. I’d rather be dead than be tortured.”
In May 2014, defence lawyer Joan Dawson raised the issue of Craig removing one of her clients from medication that had been prescribed at the Waterford Hospital by Dr. Nazir Ladha, one of province’s top psychiatrists.
“For a psychiatrist at the Pen to ignore the recommendations of the province’s top forensic psychiatrist, who prescribed certain medication, is terrible. (Craig) should have to consult with Dr. Ladha,” Dawson said.
Asked about the issue later, she said, “This has been an ongoing issue for years, but what is so appalling is that the community is not up in arms.”
And that is a very interesting point. This issue comes up again and again, and still, the community is not up in arms.
Is that because the people affected are criminals? If that’s the case, it’s sad.
— This editorial was originally published in The Telegram