Code red

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

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

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