Just how long does Justice Minister Felix Collins plan to wait before he actually does something about persistent complaints connected to psychiatric treatment in the province’s prisons?
Because it’s not like the concerns are new.
There have been concerns about Dr. David Craig — specifically, about his penchant for removing prisoners from prescribed psychiatric medications — dating back to at least 2008.
Since 2008, the government has said it has been acting on those concerns. First, they were being addressed by a review of the prison system — a review, Decades of Darkness: Moving Towards the Light, which noted, “Dr. Craig is known for his conservative approach to prescribing medications, and soon after he began work at the prisons, he started cutting back on prescribed medications to inmates.”
The report called for “a comprehensive strategy … to address the mental health issues of offenders so that the quality of care and support is based on professionally accepted standards.”
Since then, the issue has hardly faded. It has cropped up regularly in the press — appearing even as recently as Tuesday, when a former prisoner compared the treatment to torture.
There has been at least one case where a judge ordered that a prisoner be allowed to see their own psychiatrist and have access to their prescription medicines. There have been suicide attempts.
There have been situations where convicted criminals have asked for longer sentences — federal time to be served off the island — so that they could avoid Craig’s particular ministrations.
In 2011, the province’s ombudsman recommended Dr. Craig be removed from the prison.
For the last year or so, the province has been waiting for the results of an external peer review of Dr. Craig’s techniques — a review that was finally delivered on Sept. 19.
“The department received the report yesterday afternoon and we are now in the process of carefully reviewing it,” Justice Minister Felix Collins said in a news release roughly two weeks ago.
It’s not the only thing he’s said about the review; in the past he’s said significant parts of it may stay under wraps.
“Undoubtedly this review will have sensitive information in it, but what exactly it will contain we don’t know,” Collins said. “It wouldn’t be fair of me to prejudge what’s in it or even prejudge what might be released. That will depend on the nature of the report.”
(Collins, of course, was the lead minister in recent changes to access to information laws that further restrict the release of anything prepared for provincial cabinet ministers — for example, like peer reviews.)
Nothing, of course, is as hard to swallow as the second sentence credited to Collins following his receipt of the peer review: “The health of all inmates in our correctional facilities is of the utmost priority.”
Priority? When something has priority, it moves quickly.
This isn’t even the equivalent of sending a message by carrier-pigeon — it’s barely even a carrier-turtle.
Then again, we are talking about a justice minister who once said he would never give a timeline on anything, for fear he’d have to stick to it.