National defense group joins trial of inmate alleging substandard medical care in prisons


The John Howard Society of Canada has joined a lawsuit that questions the safety and legality of the medical system for federal inmates.

Under Canadian law, federal inmates are excluded from provincial health care systems and medical treatment is provided directly by the Correctional Service of Canada.

“We think this is really the crux of the matter … When your jailer is your health care provider, it creates an irreconcilable set of conflicts,” said Catherine Latimer, CEO of the John Howard Society of Canada.

“As a jailer, you are concerned about security concerns and tax concerns, and these often outweigh the medical needs of the individual prisoner.”

The lawsuit originates from a federal inmate, Michael Devlin, who claims to have received substandard care for his back pain while in detention at Atlantic Institution in Renous, New Brunswick, at Springhill Institution in New Brunswick. Scotland and Millhaven Institution in Ontario.

The statement alleges pain, suffering

“The declaration of disaster indicates that he has experienced deteriorating health and a considerable amount of pain and suffering due to the delays in his treatment and the inadequate treatment he received, ”said Latimer.

The organization said the statement had been filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and names the Correctional Service of Canada as the respondent.

Devlin, who is 39 and has been in detention since the age of 17, seeks damages for his suffering and deteriorating health, which he says is linked to inadequate care.

The claims have yet to be tested in court.

Latimer said Devlin’s experience is shared by many prisoners served by the John Howard Society, which is why the inmate rights organization is joining the lawsuit.

“We think it’s throughout the federal prison system,” she said. “We will present evidence from prisoners across the country who have experienced issues similar to Mr. Devlin’s.”

Catherine Latimer is the Executive Director of the John Howard Society. The national organization advocates for detainees and for changes to the criminal justice system. (SRC)

Earlier this year, the John Howard Society joined with seven current and former British Columbia inmates to file a constitutional challenge with the British Columbia Supreme Court which claimed, among other things, inadequate protection against COVID -19.

Latimer said the prison’s medical system appears to be particularly strained by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and kidney failure.

“Inadequate access to drugs, delays and diagnostic tests, drug cuts that don’t appear to be warranted or justified. And basically just a failure to provide timely medical interventions,” she said .

Latimer said she remembers the case of a prisoner who suffered from deteriorating hip joints and had to undergo hip replacement surgery.

“He had been told it was expensive surgery and that he would have to wait until his parole. But he was not eligible for parole for 30 years,” she said.

Latimer said that prisoners’ medical treatment is often delayed until their parole, as at this point health care becomes a provincial responsibility.

Complaint for violation of the Charter

Latimer said the John Howard Society is keen to support Devlin’s claim that the prison health care system violates inmates’ rights to security of the person, equality and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

She also believes that the federal government has overstepped its legal authority by creating a parallel medical system, a power vested in the provinces.

These complex issues could lead to a long legal battle.

“I imagine this will be challenged by the federal government and may well end up in the Supreme Court of Canada,” Latimer said.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Correctional Service of Canada did not acknowledge Catherine Latimer’s lawsuit or comments.

The release said CSC’s health services are accredited by Accreditation Canada, which is the same national body that certifies hospitals.

He said healthcare professionals who work in prisons often treat patients in their communities and are professionally licensed the same as their colleagues.

“All Canadians have the right to medically necessary health services, including those in prison,” the statement said.

“We remain committed to ensuring that quality, safe and patient-centered care is available at all of our facilities across the country. ”

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