OTTAWA, Nov. 1, 2011 /CNW/ - The Canadian Psychiatric Association is
discouraged that lack of access to mental health services in federal
prisons continues to be an area of ongoing concern for the Office of
the Correctional Investigator and a major focus of the annual report
tabled in Parliament today.
In 2009 and 2010 the Correctional Investigator, Howard Sapers, warned
the Government that federal penitentiaries are fast becoming our
nation's largest psychiatric facilities and repositories for people
with mental illness and that the number of offenders demonstrating
serious mental health problems is growing.
According to today's report 38 per cent of male federal offenders
admitted to penitentiary require further assessment to determine if
they have mental health needs. The same is true for over 50 per cent
of female offenders. This far exceeds the prevalence rate of mental
illness in general society. The report points out that these figures
likely underestimates the problem as mental illness is typically
under-reported in the prison environment and the data collected does
not include a significant range of mental disorders such as cognitive
disabilities, attention deficit disorder and foetal alcohol spectrum
"We continue to be very concerned with the number of offenders with
mental health problems in Canadian prisons and the already limited
accommodation strategies for dealing with these offenders," said Dr.
Fiona McGregor, President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.
Today's report reveals that although a few important improvements have
been made, access to mental health treatment and intervention services
in most penitentiaries remains inadequate. Segregation persists all too
often as the only alternative for housing offenders with acute mental
health symptoms. Despite efforts by Correctional Services Canada to
recruit and retain mental health professionals, their numbers remain
insufficient. The significant problem of self-injury in federal
prisons is poorly managed, lacking clear clinical treatment practices
and guidelines that address the use of physical restraints, involuntary
treatment and informed consent in a prison setting.
"Prisons were never designed to be treatment facilities. They are not
therapeutic settings and are not resourced to provide mental health
services to such a profoundly ill population. Unless the issues
identified by the Correctional Investigator are addressed, the current
situation will only be compounded by the projected increase in prison
population, leaving mentally disordered inmates inadequately treated
and vulnerable to prison violence due to overcrowding." said Dr.
Stanley Yaren, past president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association
and a forensic psychiatrist. "As noted by Mr. Sapers, cooperation and
coordination between the federal and provincial governments are
essential to addressing the significant gaps in service identified by
The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada's
4,100 psychiatrists and more than 600 psychiatric residents. Founded in
1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters
excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.
SOURCE Canadian Psychiatric Association
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