Mental health in federal corrections: reflections and future directions.

AuthorZinger, Ivan
PositionCanada - Giving Voice 2: Advocacy & Mental Health

The Office of the Correctional Investigator (the "Office") was established in 1973 pursuant to Part II of the Inquiries Act. (1) With the proclamation in November 1992 of Part III of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), (2) the Office was finally entrenched into legislation. The mandate of the Correctional Investigator, as defined by this legislation, is to function as an Ombudsman for federal offenders. The Correctional Investigator is independent of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and may initiate an investigation on receipt of a complaint by or on behalf of an offender, at the request of the Minister or on his own initiative. As well, the Office has a responsibility to review and make recommendations on the CSC's policies and procedures associated with individual complaints. In this way, systemic areas of concern can be identified and appropriately addressed. The Correctional Investigator is required by legislation to report annually through the Minister of Public Safety lo both Houses of Parliament.

Federal offenders are excluded from the Canada Health Act (3) and their health care needs are not covered by Health Canada or provincial health systems. (4) The CSC Therefore provides health care services directly to federal offenders, including those residing in Community Correctional Centres. The CSC is legislatively mandated to provide health care to offenders through the CCRA.

Section 86 of the CCRA slates that:

(1) The Service shall provide every inmate with

(a) essential health care (which includes mental health care), and

(b) reasonable access to non-essential mental health care that will contribute to the inmate's rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community.

(2) The provision of health care under subsection (1) shall conform to professionally accepted standards.

Section 87 of the CCRA further states that:

The Service shall take into consideration an offender's state of health and health care needs

(a) In all decisions affecting the offender, including decisions relating to placement, transfer, administrative segregation and disciplinary matters; and

(b) In the preparation of the offender for release and the supervision of the offender.

This responsibility requires the CSC to provide health services to federal offenders, either directly or through contracted services. As a result, within the 57 CSC institutions there are live regional mental health treatment centres (one per region) and four regional hospitals which provide post-surgical and palliative care. In addition. Exchange of Service Agreements are in place for the provision of some services through provincial health care systems.

The Office first raised its concerns about the delivery of mental health services to federal offenders in its Annual Report 2003-04. (5) This...

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