Justice Minister Darin King says that more than a year after his department received advice on how to improve psychiatric services in the prison, it is still working on it.
King said that they accepted all five recommendations from the Klassen Report last year, and they got to work on it immediately, but the recommendations haven’t been fully addressed yet.
“There’s never going to be fully implemented recommendations; some of them are ongoing and continuous,” he said. “I can tell you that every single one of the recommendations are either done or in progress.”
The issue came up in the House of Assembly when New Demcorat MHA Gerry Rogers asked King whether there’s any plan to add extra psychiatrists to the system.
For years, psychiatric services in the prison have been a consistent source of concern among inmates’ rights advocates who say that Dr. David Craig’s conservative approach to psychiatric drugs is doing more harm than good.
After years of criticism, the department ordered a peer review by another correctional psychiatrist. The report written by Dr. Philip Klassen concluded that Craig was operating within the accepted scope of practice, but Klassen made several recommendations to strengthen the system.
“Dr. Klassen recommended expanding the network of psychiatrists providing services in correctional facilities. The department agreed to develop a rotation of psychiatrists to provide on-site services,” she said. “Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: has this recommendation been implemented?”
King didn’t answer that question in the House, but he told The Telegram that they haven’t managed to get that far yet.
“I don’t think there’s a rotation, at this point, where there’s other psychiatrists providing service,” he said.
Similarly, the provincial government hasn’t developed a set of clinical guidelines for psychiatric service in the prison — another one of Klassen’s recommendations.
On that point, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said it’s working on it, but it’s running into difficulty because no province in Canada has guidelines for prison psychiatry.
But if it can’t find any examples at home, officials working for the government might want to look south of the border.
In his report, Klassen notes, “a number of organizations have prepared guidelines, including the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the American Correctional Association, the (American) National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, and the US Department of Justice (National Institute of Corrections).”