Commissioner Don Head testified at the Ashley Smith inquest today.
He kept going back to resource issues and his budget. He actually said, at one point, “my money” …. as in, he has limited resources and he has to decide where to spend his money. HIS money? Seems to me that every last blasted cent he has control of belongs not to him but to Canadian taxpayers.
And he is given a budget with which he is supposed to ensure that the tasks that CSC is charged with are done.
Our Mission: The Correctional Service of Canada, as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.
Nowhere in the mission statement or core values or ethics framework or in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act which governs the work of CSC does it suggest that standing around videotaping while inmates DIE is acceptable. In fact, from my reading, and from the testimony of many of those who have appeared at the inquest, preservation of life is supposed to be pretty damn high up on the list of EVERYONE’S priorities. It’s pretty hard to actively encourage and assist offenders to become law-abiding citizens while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control if they are DEAD.
The recently released report Risky Business makes it pretty clear that nothing much has improved for self-injuring women in the custody of CSC since Ashley died. In fact, there are more than a few indications that things have continued to deteriorate since her death 6 years ago. For starters, the number of incidents has TRIPLED over the last 5 years. TRIPLED!!!!
Mr. Head mentioned improvements in communications, resourcing ($50 million for new mental health strategies?!), staff training – and with all that, they’ve managed to triple the number of incidents in which inmates (many of them Aboriginal women) are acting out their pain and despair by harming themselves (and lose another one to apparent lack of staff response to “medical distress”).
And Mr. Head had the nerve to suggest, when asked for his recommendations (as all witnesses are asked) that the jury focus on recommendations that cost nothing, support what they are already in the process of doing, and don’t require too much training time?!
I am still steaming from the sheer NERVE of the man!
As I suggested in a tweet to him, they should fire everyone that failed Ashley Smith (and Kinew James) – including him – and use that money to provide appropriate care for the seriously ill women that they haven’t yet managed to kill. Outside of CSC.
My favourite question of the day was when he was asked what the cost of NOT providing appropriate treatment to Ashley Smith was… what is the cost of keeping someone that is such a huge drain on resources in segregation within CSC, Mr. Head? Of course, he had no idea – but he did, when pushed, acknowledge that it would, in fact, be possible to come up with such a number. Here’s a thought – add in the costs of settlements to the families when you screw up and manage to kill their loved ones, and the expense of holding Boards of Inquiry and inquests, too – perhaps then there will be some cost benefit to doing things properly in the first place.
The whole system is ludicrous. So much time, energy and resources spent on tracking data, paper, statistics, use of force videos & reports, etc. etc…. scads and scads of data – only to ignore the realities of what that data is showing. We pay to staff the Office of the Correctional Investigator – and then ignore most of what they tell us. We pay to hold inquest after inquest – and then ignore the recommendations they generate. What the hell is the point of it all?
The whole thing sickens me.
Such a horrific and inhumane use of resources.
We don’t have the death penalty in Canada – except that we do.