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Results: 1 - 12 of 12
View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
Mr. Chair, 80% of offenders in our federal prisons have addictions. We know that mental illness is a significant and growing problem in our prisons. The Conservative government has said that there are people in prisons who shouldn't be there because they actually have health issues. Yet this budget doesn't say a word about increasing funding for mental health treatment or addictions treatment.
Given that these are some of the prime causes of crime, and dealing with these issues is an absolutely identified way to reduce recidivism and make our communities safer, can you please explain why?
View Vic Toews Profile
CPC (MB)
View Vic Toews Profile
2011-03-24 9:20
I can talk about some of the initiatives that our government has taken in funding, for example, that was never in place under the prior government to address issues of mental health. We've contributed significant millions of dollars to the issue of mental health in prisons.
This is an issue, Mr. Chair, that both the provincial and the federal institutions are facing as a result of the shift in policy in the provinces some number of years ago. I was a lawyer for a provincial government during the course of those occurrences that were essentially shutting down mental hospitals or asylums and putting these individuals out onto the street. In many cases, not only were they then out on the street with mental health problems, but they became prey to the drug dealers, so you had a double problem of mental health and drug addiction.
Essentially these--
View Vic Toews Profile
CPC (MB)
View Vic Toews Profile
2011-03-24 9:21
Essentially these individuals then find their way into the provincial jail system and the federal institutions. We have taken steps to address that, but I think we need a more vigorous discussion with provincial mental health authorities about what would be a more appropriate way of dealing with these individuals. The policies of the 1970s and 1980s in closing down these institutions have not worked, quite frankly, and what we're doing is developing--
View Serge Ménard Profile
BQ (QC)
In addition, I see that the increase to the Correctional Service of Canada's budget is only 1.4%. However, for a number of years now, for more than five years, at least, the correctional investigator has been telling you that funding for the treatment of mental illness in the prisons—a growing problem every year because a large percentage of inmates suffer from mental illness—is inadequate and that this situation has persisted.
He also notes that only 2% of the Correctional Service's budget is for inmate programs. However, these are generally programs designed to prepare inmates for rehabilitation and their return to society.
In addition, as Minister of Justice, you regularly announce to us that you want sentences to be longer and you introduce bills that always give us the impression that judges don't impose harsh enough sentences. Consequently, provision should be made for an increase in the number of inmates in prisons.
Don't you believe that a 1.4% increase in the budget will necessarily force you to choose one of those priorities? Which of those priorities are you going to drop?
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
Of course, in government we're always choosing among priorities, and one of the ways we do that is through the strategic review process, to look at making savings where we can and apply resources where they're required more significantly. Correctional Services has gone through a strategic review process like that this past year, which is reflected in the current numbers, and it was one of the reasons why what appears like a relatively modest increase is actually a much more significant increase in the very priority areas that you indicated. Savings have been made in other areas where things were not done efficiently, or programs did not work well, in order that resources could be redirected to much higher-priority areas.
For example, on the mental health front, we will now be having assessments in the first 90 days after intake into a federal penitentiary for all individuals. Previously we didn't have that kind of mental health assessment of every individual going into our prisons. That's a new program that will be introduced. I think that is actually coming on stream this month across the entire penitentiary system. For example, in that 90-day intake period there was never any programming offered, and with shorter penitentiary sentences overall, that meant less treatment and less rehabilitation for prisoners.
A lot of what the strategic review did was provide some money to begin to introduce programming into that first 90 days. As well, there was an overall look at the relevance of programming. There has been some attention, for example, to the closure of the prison farms. Those were costing a net loss for six farms of $4 million a year. We felt that money could be more adequately redirected to programs where people would actually gain employable skills, as virtually nobody who went through those prison farms ended up with employable skills, because they were based on a model of how agriculture was done 50 years ago, when it was labour intensive, and not capital intensive, as it is today. That might have been fine while they were in prison, but it didn't provide usable work skills. We are taking that money and redirecting it again to programs that are more likely to provide employment-based skills. This will continue.
One of the difficulties, particularly on the mental health front, is that the challenge is in part money and that more resources are being provided, but part of it is the simple ability to hire the skilled personnel. There's a need for psychiatrists, psychologists. We could give them all the money they want, but it's simply difficult to find enough available in the marketplace who are willing to work within our prison system. There is a shortage of that, so Corrections Canada is placing increased focus and attention on recruitment and retention of mental health workers, whether it be nurses, psychologists, or psychiatrists. It will take time for that to have an effect.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
One of the recommendations that he made in his annual report for 2007-08 was that the Correctional Service, in its training initiatives, make it a priority for the current fiscal year to ensure that all front-line employees are trained in dealing with mentally ill offenders.
Can you tell me, Minister, whether that has been done and how much money has been allocated for that? Has this process started, and have people been trained?
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
Yes, a lot of changes have been happening in there, and now mental health training has been developed and has been provided to front-line staff, both institutional and community staff. They've all received that training. As well, suicide prevention training has been provided for all staff who have regular interactions with prisoners.
The Ashley Smith issue is an important one because it's not about Ashley Smith, although it is. It's all about the whole change in our corrections system. There has been major change. I know I don't have a lot of time on this, but in a nutshell we de-institutionalized the mentally ill in our provincial facilities in the seventies, and since that time, and increasingly and likely into the future, we are simply re-institutionalizing the mentally ill in prisons. We are criminalizing the mentally ill. That's a big major issue that we need to spend a lot of time on. It's an issue that involves the provinces and the health care system, and it's something, as I've said in the past, that I intend to make a major focus and priority.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2009-04-02 10:07
Thank you.
Thank you, Minister, for being here today. We certainly appreciate your taking the time.
Like my friend, Mr. Rathgeber, I'm certainly happy to see the emphasis our government has put on dealing with serious crime and bills like the ones we've brought forward now to deal with drug crimes and gang crimes, and of course the important truth-in-sentencing bill. When he and I visited the Alberta Solicitor General, I know that certainly that bill in particular was something they specifically identified they wanted to see us address, and I know other provincial ministers do as well. So it's very good to see we're doing that. I'm certainly hoping the opposition will end its pattern of blocking, delaying, and stalling legislation that deals with serious crime and help us to pass those important bills.
I'm also happy to hear there are plans and thoughts on the process of how that will affect our federal prisons.
I know the last time you were here at the committee, and in response to one of my questions, you mentioned our mental health strategy in the prisons as well. I'm happy to hear there's been thought put into how we'll deal with mental health issues and some of the new processes being put in place to improve the screening and address mental health issues in the prisons.
My questions will relate to prisons and to mental health, because as you're well aware, this committee will be doing a study on mental health issues in the prisons. I'd like to hear your comments and suggestions, or any requests you have of this committee, in terms of areas you'd like to see us address with regard to mental health issues when we're looking at that study. Maybe at the same time you could highlight and focus a little bit on the continuing transformation agenda we see with Corrections Canada as well, and some of the things that are being done and will be done.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
Well, I could go all day on all these. Let me just talk about the mental health part of it, because it is an important one in my view.
What I would like you to study is not specific questions, which I think Corrections Canada is doing its best to respond to on a program level, in terms of what there is in the prison to deal with a psychiatric patient. A lot of changes have been made. We're going to have to evaluate them, see if they're the right changes, whether there are enough resources, and so on.
It's the broader problem I'm more interested in. Why is it that we're having to convert our prison system into a mental health hospital system? Why is it that people are ending up in prisons who shouldn't be? The fundamental problem is this. Why are we not getting adequate health care to individuals? Why, when they have their first couple of encounters with the courts, do they still not get adequate health care?
There are some significant differences in different parts of the country on how this gets dealt with. Some places have pretty good interventions through the courts, which might divert people away from the courts toward the mental health system. In other places there are none. The Ashley Smith case, for example, falls into one of those problematic areas.
Understanding how you get there is important, because by the time someone has had serious enough problems that they're in the federal penitentiary system, it's pretty hard to put the puzzle back together again. What we want to do is find ways to deal with it well before that happens, and that's better for society. It's better for the individuals involved; it's better for the taxpayers; it's better for our prison system. I'd like our corrections system to be a corrections system, not a mental health system.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you.
On another matter, Mr. Hyppolite, I'm interested in some of the comments. The minister made a comment that I agree with. We don't want to turn our correctional institutions into mental hospitals, although once people are incarcerated, they need whatever treatment they deserve while they're in your custody. But neither is the Correctional Service a trade school. Certainly the fact that someone can get training that is specifically useful for a particular job outside is a good thing, but surely, Mr. Hyppolite, the operation of a prison farm, where prisoners are engaged in physical activity, actively producing food for themselves and other prisoners and institutions, engaged in a working life on a daily basis, meeting expectations to do work, some of whom never had a job before...this is good for the mental health of prisoners, good for the protection of the public. When they're released you have people who are used to doing that. Isn't that a positive thing? Why wouldn't the Correctional Service keep that operation if it can contribute to the rehabilitation of prisoners?
Marc-Arthur Hyppolite
View Marc-Arthur Hyppolite Profile
Marc-Arthur Hyppolite
2009-04-02 10:45
In terms of the link you make to mental health, obviously, when we occupy an offender, it is always better for the offender to do his time peacefully and then prepare himself and concentrate on the criminogenic...and the needs that have been identified in the correctional plan to prepare him for a safe and early release to society.
On the issue of the farms, obviously, as you know, we're one of the 21 agencies that have undergone a strategic review. We identified the farms and the work there as not being, strategically speaking, an enhancement to our capacity to deliver marketable skills to offenders. So we have decided to close the six farms around the country and invest in areas that are more strategic to our priorities and to link to the provision of better public safety services and make sure the offender, in the continuum of care, when released to society, can be employable and employed and have a meaningful job and be a law-abiding citizen.
View Peter Van Loan Profile
CPC (ON)
I caution Mr. Oliphant about buying into characterizations of our agenda. Look at what it is in particular.
Yes, we believe in serious punishment for serious crime, but the reality of our programs also shows a strong focus on the other side of it, such as crime prevention, which we talked about. You can see the refocused targets. They are exactly the areas you're concerned about. I think that is something Mr. Holland was being critical of earlier. We think it's a good thing, and I think it's consistent with what you're telling us you want to see done. I think you see the same thing in the changes happening in the prison system.
Another area where there is a big concern is mental health. It's an issue of great concern to me, because the reality is that there are a lot of people in those prisons who really shouldn't be there. They should be in health-care facilities, but that option doesn't exist anymore, and we're left to deal with it in a way that isn't really appropriate for a corrections system. As provincial de-institutionalization continued, as community support was not provided, people got into that cycle, and it's very tough to get them out of that cycle. We've seen that accelerate over the years. For each new young cohort that comes in and doesn't have that kind of health-care support and bounces around in and out of the courts before finally ending up doing something more serious and ending up in prison, by the time we get them, a lot of damage has already been caused. It really needs a broader, comprehensive solution that involves other parts of society.
Results: 1 - 12 of 12

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