Court declares mentally ill female prisoner not a dangerous offender

A cell in Saskatoon's Regional Psychiatric Centre. Corrections Canada

Marlene Carter, a 43-year-old inmate with severe mental illness who’s spent much of her five years behind bars tied to a plank, bed or chair in a solitary cell, is not a dangerous offender, a judge has ruled.

In a decision issued Thursday afternoon, Judge Sheila Whalen sentenced Carter to six years in custody, minus four years served in remand at Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre.

The sentence was for assaults that took place while she was incarcerated and restrained: Once she hit a guard with a cuffed hand; on another occasion she threw hot water at a nurse while tied to a chair.

BACKGROUND: Tied down in solitary for years, is sick inmate a dangerous offender?

So Carter’s sentence is good news: If Judge Whalen had granted the Crown’s request for a dangerous offender designation, she could have been locked away for life.

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“Marlene is very happy and relieved,” her lawyer Jim Scott said Friday.

Carter stays in the Saskatoon prison for now, albeit hopefully under better conditions than she’s had there previously.

In the meantime, her lawyer, health professionals and the Elizabeth Fry Society are working to get her transferred to Brockville, Ont.’s Secure Treatment Unit – a facility designed for offenders with the most severe mental illness.

Dr. AG Ahmed assessed Carter in May and suggested she be transferred: Her existing environment is “a pathogen,” Scott said – making her worse, not better, and making harder for her to ever readjust to living safely in the community.

“The doctors, medical staff and security staff at the RPC want her to move,” Carter’s lawyer noted, “and Dr. Ahmed is anxious to treat her at Brockville.”

The only impediment to moving her, he said, is Corrections Canada.

Corrections has said it can’t discuss the specifics of this case, but has said in the past its agreement “in principle” with the Brockville centre is being worked out.

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READ: Judge Sheila Whelan’s ruling regarding Marlene Carter’s dangerous offender status

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