The disciplinary process for inmates in Saskatchewan jails includes several unfair aspects, according to Saskatchewan’s ombudsman.
Ahead of her annual report released Tuesday, Mary McFadyen investigated the process for correctional centre inmates charged with disciplinary offences while in custody. Such breaches can include fighting, gang involvement, threats or trying to escape custody.
Offenders are then brought before a panel of corrections officials to determine whether they or guilty and what punishment they should receive.
“It needs to be quick, but it still needs to be full and fair,” McFadyen said in an interview.
The ombudsman found inmates often did not receive enough information about the allegations, which affected their ability to prepare for a hearing. In some cases, they weren’t allowed to call inmates to testify on their behalf and could not question staff witnesses.
Video evidence from closed-circuit cameras was sometimes viewed as “too cumbersome” to include during a hearing, despite being the clearest depiction of what happened, McFadyen said.
Offenders were also denied the option to have someone else represent them during a hearing, according to the report.
McFadyen said it’s also a “very awkward situation” for corrections officials to preside over a panel that weighs correctional officer evidence against inmate evidence.
“They really didn’t have any training on that. Some of them had gotten training when they first started and had no training afterwards,” McFadyen said.
In total, the ombudsman had nine recommendations for the province’s Ministry of Corrections and Policing, all of which were accepted.
“Work is underway to implement each of the recommendations to improve the discipline system in Saskatchewan correctional centres,” according to ministry spokesperson Marieka Andrew.
Andrew said the safety of staff, inmates, the public and correctional centres are the primary considerations when it comes to inmate discipline.
The ombudsman’s report also delved into the costs of prescriptions in long-term care facilities.
The report cited a complaint in the former Saskatoon Health Region, in which two people said their father moved into a care home and his prescription costs ballooned from $45 per month to $113 per month.
Because long-term care facilities contract out prescription services to pharmacies, the ombudsman’s report found residents become a “captive market.”
McFadyen found requests for proposals (RFP) issued by the health region failed to include pricing as a metric in determining whether a contract is awarded.
The ombudsman recommended the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA)’s RFP process include price as a factor when pharmacies are considered during the bidding process.
In a statement sent Wednesday afternoon, the SHA said it accepts the ombudsman’s recommendations. With twelve health regions amalgamating into a single authority, the SHA said there has been a review around policies and contracts to develop best practices and standards.
The health authority has created a standard template for pharmacy contracts, which includes total prices, fees and charges, the statement said.
According to the SHA, all current pharmacy contracts are under review, and as they expire, contracts will be subject to the updated RFP process.
The full report is available on the ombudsman’s website.