MONCTON – Correctional Service Canada (CSC) confirmed Friday it may move inmates from the Shepody Healing Centre in Dorchester, NB to another facility as part of its changes to mental health services, but two former employees say such a move would be harmful to inmates.
Shepody is a 50-bed treatment facility for inmates from the Atlantic region. It is one of five regional treatment centres operated by CSC.
CSC spokesperson Sara Parkes told Global News in an e-mail that Shepody’s acute-level inpatient hospital beds will be changed to Intermediate Mental Health Care beds, which are provided “to inmates who do not need to be in a hospital, or do not consent to hospital admission, but still need more mental health care than is available at the primary care level.”
Parkes also said the overall capacity of mental health beds in the Atlantic region will increase to 83 beds.
Inmates currently occupying acute-level inpatient hospital beds at Shepody will likely be sent to another facility.
Mike Friedel, who spent 29 years working as a correctional officer, worked at Shepody in 2004. He told Global News on Thursday that when he heard that there may be changes at Shepody, he wondered why CSC would move inmates out of the region.
“They have regular visits they set up with their family if they’re in the area. You know, from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island,” he said, adding that inmates were also sometimes allowed on escorted day trips for special family functions. This would no longer be possible, he said, if inmates were located far from their families.
He said that during his time at the facility, inmates would sometimes be sent to facilities in other provinces and he would notice a change in them when they returned.
“They’re just not the same when they come back. They’re isolated from their family and the surroundings that they’re used to,” he said, saying that it makes sense for inmates to remain in the community, as some of them will eventually be released back to these places.
Bernard Galarneau was the Clinical Director at Shepody from 2002 to 2007. He is a clinical and forensic psychologist in Dieppe, NB and agreed that sending inmates to another province would not help them.
“It’s very important to keep links with your family, with your friends. Social alienation is a terrible thing,” he said. “Often mentally disordered people, offenders feel a great sense of alienation. We’re not going to help that by exporting them to another province.”
St. John’s East MP Jack Harris raised the issue in the House of Commons Thursday, saying staff at Shepody had been told the centre will close April 1.
“Forty-five of the total capacity of 50 beds at Shepody are currently occupied, and we are told that current and future inmates with severe mental illness will be transferred to Archambault, near Quebec City,” Harris said.
Harris then asked Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney if he ordered the closure.
Blaney said that government had an action plan to deal with mental health.