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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.

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Recent comments

  • Observer
    October 08, 2012 - 08:49

    In correctional facilities across the U.S., inmates refer to quetiapine(Syraquil) as “quell”, “Susie Q” or “baby heroin”.6,7 Hanley et al. describes the unforeseen use of antipsychotics as drugs of abuse by the correctional population through case reports. Furthermore, the literature documents inmates engaging in drug seeking and illegal behaviors to obtain quetiapine, even vowing threats of suicide when presented with its discontinuation.8 These factors led one set of authors to recommend that clinicians be extremely cautious when prescribing quetiapine for non-serious mental disorders (e.g. sleep and anxiety), and in all individuals with a history of substance abuse. This is quoted from cncp.org, doing reviews of inmates abusing medications and the measures they take to get those meds.

  • tlb
    October 03, 2012 - 23:16

    After reading all these comments, i have to make my own as this issue is a personal concern for me. First off, the doctor should not have the power to over ride another doctor because of his own beliefs about prescriptions. Many of the people who end up in our prison system have some type of mental health issues and need their prescription to function in everyday life. Dr. Craig is talking people off their meds cold turkey as he believes that their are over ways to deal with issue rather then medication. Well guess what.....not every person can be cured by some herbal treatment and do have a chemical in-balance that can only be controlled by medications. Second of all, many of the inmates in our province DO NOT have violent back grounds or have committed violent crimes thus why they stay here and not sent to a federal prison, most of the crimes are petty and the people should not be treated like waste because they have made mistakes.

  • William Daniels
    October 03, 2012 - 16:55

    Collins had stumbled and bumbled around long enough. He has brought buffoonery to a new level.

  • Calvin
    October 03, 2012 - 12:49

    Chantal, these inmates are not addicted to blood pressure pills, give me a break. They are becoming addicted to pain killers and behavioral drugs, then when they end up amongst the general population again they hold up a pharmacy to get the drugs they either no longer have access to or can't afford. My final solution involves criminals being released from prison without a dependancy on these drugs, so that they don't end up behind bars again for trying to obtain them. And the best case situation is they end up back in jail WITHOUT commiting some sort of violent crime where they hurt an innocent person. And why should inmates br granted access to a special psychiatrist? They are lucky enough to have one working at the prison that they don't have to pay for. Someone commits a crime and is given full access to mental health experts. The victim of that crime, if they aren't fortunate enough to be able to afford counseling on their own, has to deal with the provinces less than adequate free counseling services. Does that make sense to you? The victim of a crime has less access to psychiatric help than the criminal does, seems like a recipe for success to me.

  • Chantal
    October 03, 2012 - 10:06

    I'm just wondering whether the 'experts' here would support withholding medications from the general population so that they don't become "addicted" to their prescription medications. Should we close down the pharmacies so that people don’t get dependent on their heart medications or their blood pressure pills? And yes, Calvin, advocating the denial of treatment, pharmaceutical, psychological or physiological to any member of society is not only heartless, but twisted. You say “So they should be given special treatment, access to their own psychiatrist, because they are unstable and ended up in prison? “ Given that they will be back in society in less than two years, what is your (final?) solution?

    • Eli
      October 03, 2012 - 10:53

      Boo Bird # 1 doesn't mention freedom of choice, as in do I take this drug to get a high and consequently hooked? Goodness knows there's enough evidence of the consequences all around us.

  • Ballyclatters
    October 03, 2012 - 09:05

    The situation existed before 2008. One would think that the Justice Department simply could have not renewed his contract for services at some point since then.

  • Thanks Dr. David Craig for caring for your patients.
    October 03, 2012 - 08:28

    Calvin I have to agree wholeheartedly with you that getting people of some types of medication, and maybe all types is the best idea I have ever heard. The Doctor in this article is unfairly maligned. How can people ever function properly in order to live a productive life if they are drugged up with chemicals every hour of the day? Just last evening I heard reported on the National CBC News a particular item advising us that Heart Medication being administered for years to combat high blood pressure doesn't work, it doesn't bring down blood pressures, the news report stated. On a monthly basis we hear of one drug or another touted as being very dangerous to people's health being meted out to patients by Doctors without any warnings that they can clash with other drugs the patient might be taking, that results in death. I recommend the best medication program in the World is a regimen of exercises, either at the Gym or in the Great outdoors, or even in one's own home. Myself, I love the great outdoors for exercising especially walking and hiking, each day after I finish my exercise regimen I feel like I have had the "Finest Dose" of Nature's medication that can be administered. Don't expect all doctors to advise you come off medications because that is where a portion of their earnings come from.

  • Calvin
    October 03, 2012 - 07:21

    Am I missing something here? I try to stay up to date on most events in the province, so maybe I am interpreting this wrong, but is this guy going to get removed from his position for trying to decrease the number of inmates on prescription medications? Because that seams like something good to me. Inmates go into prison addicted to street drugs, and come out of prison addicted to prescription drugs, and he is trying to prevent that..... I don't get the problem here. As for the suicide attempts, not to sound like a heartless bastard, but these are inmates who, in most cases, comitted some form of violent crime to land themselves in prison. So they should be given special treatment, access to their own psychiatrist, because they are unstable and ended up in prison? We treat criminals better than we treat the elderly. I am sorry, but I really don't understand how what this man is doing is so immoral and wrong.

    • Eli
      October 03, 2012 - 08:50

      You make a lot of sense Calvin. But watch out! Here come the boo-birds.