The NDP critic for corrections said things have not improved since she last toured provincial jails two years ago.
After visiting the Pine Grove and Prince Albert Provincial Correctional Centres Tuesday, Nicole Sarauer said she took no solace in comments made by the ministry of justice in response to last week’s critical report on healthcare behind bars. The report by the provincial auditor released early this month said care for inmates was lacking because of improper medical record keeping, a low rate of staff first-aid certification, and lengthy delays by staff in responding to some health-related inmate complaints. About 30 per cent of the time complaints about medical care were not dealt with within five days, the auditor found.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the province accepts all of the auditor’s recommendations, but Sarauer said she isn’t optimistic.
“My hope is that the auditor’s work shining a public light on these issues will force corrections to take some serious measures, but none of them are new or surprising,” Sarauer told paNOW.
She said some of the challenges she saw back in 2016 may be even more pronounced now, with over-crowding and many inmates dealing with substance abuse and mental health challenges. She said the government was not providing enough resources to deal with matters properly, both inside and outside of correctional centres.
Sarauer also said the government should be putting resources into these areas before people found themselves in the corrections system.
“Access to housing and education is a huge issue on the preventative side and addictions is a massive problem,” she said. “Frankly, it will end up saving us money in the long term if we’re putting our investments in addictions, treatment facilities, and mental health. We won’t have to spend as much in corrections if we’re addressing some of these issues before people reach that critical point."
Responding to the audit last week, Ministry of Justice Executive Director Drew Wilby told reporters the ministry had “indicated timelines and a work plan moving forward to address all of those recommendations.”
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