February 19, 2015 10:28 pm
Updated: February 20, 2015 5:05 pm

Inmates sue federal government over lack of rehabilitation programs

The medium-security Matsqui prison in Abbotsford, B.C.

The Canadian Press/Richard Lam
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VANCOUVER – Inmates at two British Columbia prisons have filed a lawsuit alleging the federal correctional service has violated its legal duty to provide rehabilitation programs.

Wesley Devries is incarcerated at Mission Medium Institution, and Yong Long Ye is serving time at Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford, B.C.

A notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court against the federal Attorney General says both men have been prevented from accessing rehabilitation programs, either because they do not qualify or because of long wait lists.

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Correctional Service Canada is legally required to provide various programs for offenders dealing with issues such as substance abuse and violence.

The suit alleges the lack of programs also impacts inmates’ ability to transfer to lower-security institutions, get temporary absences and parole, therefore violating their Charter rights.

The case was filed on behalf of inmates’ committees at the two prisons, said lawyer Chris Terepocki, who added the committees also funded the action.

“This was them deciding to allocate funds to what they thought was one of the most pressing issues that they’re facing right now,” Terepocki said.

Correctional Service Canada declined comment because the matter is before the courts.

“It is incredibly frustrating for those of us that recognize that we need help and want to participate in programs,” Jason McGown, former head of the inmates’ committee at Mission Medium Institution, said in a statement. “Yet, for whatever reason, some do not qualify and are basically stuck until they reach their statutory release date.”

Devries was sentenced to 34 months in September 2013 on fraud-related charges. When he arrived at the Mission prison, he learned there were no spots available for programs and no resources for psychiatric care, according to the suit.

As of January this year, Devries was still on a wait list for programs, with only seven months before his statutory release.

Court documents say he has been unable to apply for parole or unescorted absences or transfer to a lower-security prison because he could not access crucial programs.

Ye is serving a sentence for drug-related crimes. The suit says the correctional service has refused to offer him any programs because he is classified as low risk and therefore does not meet the criteria.

Court documents say that Ye has been refused parole in part because he hasn’t taken any violence-related programs. But his repeated attempts to get on wait lists have been denied, the suit says.

The lawsuit follows last summer’s report by B.C.’s auditor general Carol Bellringer, who said B.C. Corrections was failing to provide adequate programs for inmates.

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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