For Immediate Release

ARCHIVED - Correctional Investigator of Canada Welcomes Call for National Strategy on Delivery of Mental Health Services to Youth and Adult Offenders

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OTTAWA, June 9, 2008 - The federal prison ombudsman, Mr. Howard Sapers, today welcomed a key recommendation by the New Brunswick Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate for a national strategy to ensure coordination and cohesiveness among federal and provincial mental heath and correctional systems. The recommendation was made in a report released by the provincial ombudsman into the services provided to Ashley Smith, a nineteen year old who, following incarceration in New Brunswick for three years was transferred to the federal prison system in October 2006 and died while in custody in October 2007.

"I will shortly be providing my Office's investigative report into Ms. Smith's death to the Minister of Public Safety and the Correctional Service of Canada. There will be a similar call for increased cooperation and coordination. A national strategy should focus on information sharing between jurisdictions and promote a seamless delivery of mental health services to offenders, as well as examine alternatives for the provision of health care services to federal offenders," Mr. Sapers said.

The failure of the province's Youth Criminal Justice System to provide adequate mental health care and treatment documented in the New Brunswick report, continued once Ms. Smith was in the federal corrections system. The teenager was transferred nine times between correctional institutions during her 11 months in federal custody and was kept in segregation for the entire period. The segregation cell where she died was more than 2,000 kilometers away from her parents' Moncton home.

The Correctional Investigator submitted an interim report on Ashley Smith's death to the Commissioner of Corrections and the Minister of Public Safety in December 2007. Given the ongoing criminal investigation, Mr. Sapers is limited in what he can say about the immediate circumstances surrounding the death.
In his 2005 Annual Report, the Correctional Investigator found the number of offenders in federal penitentiaries with significant, identified mental health needs had more than doubled over the past decade, and mental health services offered by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) had not been able to meet the increased demand.

According to a 2008 report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Improving the Health of Canadians 2008: Mental Health, Delinquency and Criminal Activity, more than one in four Canadians hospitalized for mental illness have had brushes with the law and that youth and adults diagnosed with mental illnesses are overrepresented in Canada's correctional facilities.

The Correctional Investigator is mandated by an Act of Parliament to be an independent Ombudsman for federal offenders. This work includes ensuring that systemic areas of concern are identified and addressed. His Annual Reports as well as the 2007 Deaths in Custody Study which examined 82 reported suicides, homicides, and accidental deaths of prisoners while in custody of the Correctional Service during a five year period from 2001 - 2005, are on the Correctional Investigator's website at www.oci-bec.gc.ca.

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For further information:

Ivan Zinger, LL.B., Ph.D.
Director of Policy and Senior Counsel
Office of the Correctional Investigator
(613) 990-2690
Ivan.Zinger@oci-bec.gc.ca