Justice Minister Darin King says he’s satisfied with the psychiatric service of Dr. David Craig, based on a peer review of his service that found Craig “meets the standard of care” for psychiatrists working in Canada’s prisons.
The peer review is an exoneration for Craig, whose methods and conservative attitudes to prescription psychiatric drugs have put him at the centre of controversy for years.
Current and former inmates routinely complain that Craig pulls them off drugs that have been prescribed by other doctors once they arrive in prison.
In the spring of 2011, citizens’ representative Barry Fleming wrote a report saying that Craig should be removed from the prison system, because inmates were not being treated fairly.
The government dismissed Fleming’s report, saying he doesn’t have the expertise to make that call; instead, Ontario forensic psychiatrist Philip Klassen was hired to do a peer review of Craig’s service.
Klassen interviewed Craig and other health-care workers in the prison; he also talked to Fleming and reviewed a random selection of 18 inmates’ charts, although he did not speak to any current or former inmates.
Klassen was told by a nurse practitioner that “medications are not discontinued abruptly, rather are tapered, and that inmates typically do well off medications so managed.”
That assessment conflicts directly with multiple reports in The Telegram and other media based on interviews with current and former prisoners.
As recently as early October, The Telegram published an interview with former inmate Doug Squires, who said Craig abruptly pulled him off psychiatric drugs on more than one occasion, causing serious health issues.
Squires said in prison, Craig told him the reason he was being taken off the drugs was because he was an inmate.
“This is what he said: ‘You're not here to have a fun time there, Doug.’ He said, ‘I'm going to be taking you off this. These drugs will make your time go fast. You're going to pay for what you did,’” Squires told The Telegram.
King wouldn’t talk about the media reports which seem to contradict Klassen’s findings.
“He’s come to the conclusion that what he’s doing is fair and above board and meets the standard that would be applied across Canada. Beyond that it’s difficult for me to explain to you why you’ve talked to people that find a different opinion than Dr. Klassen does,” King said. “I can’t speculate why people would have other opinions.”
Liberal justice critic Andrew Parsons said his reading of the report seems to acknowledge that Craig’s service is normal for a prison setting, but that prisoners aren’t entitled to the same level of care as other people.
“It would seem to me the concerns expressed by these patients were validated,” he said. “They're saying that yes, he meets the standard of care, but the standard of care is simply not good enough.”
Klassen made a series of five recommendations, which the government has accepted. He recommends that the psychiatric services should be less variable, and operate based on guidelines. He also called for a team approach to psychiatric care, with more mental health services, and bringing in other psychiatrists to shoulder part of the load in the prison system.
New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said she thinks that if the recommendations are put in place, they’ll do a lot of good.
She said she wants to know how long it will take for the government to put the changes in place.
“I’d like a timeline. It’s not enough to tell me they’re started; I want to know when things are going to be put in place,” she said.