Ombudsman investigates prescription pills in Canadian prisons

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Canada’s federal prison ombudsman is reviewing policies and procedures related to how inmates are administered prescription drugs.

Correctional investigator Howard Sapers told the Straight that the issue came to his attention a year and a half ago, when Correctional Services Canada (CSC) instituted reforms in the way it medicates prisoners. Nothing was unusual about the new policies, Sapers noted, but after they were implemented, his office began receiving more complaints from offenders about access to medicine.

“It became apparent to us that they [CSC] are not consistently collecting a lot of management data,” he said in a telephone interview. “So we have an investigation that is under way, which is trying to help us scope out what will be a more detailed, systemic investigation.”

One area being looked at is how certain mood-altering pills are reportedly finding their way into prisons’ illicit drug trade. Another is an increase in the rate at which such medications are being prescribed, which is especially high for women.

According to a CBC News report, the portion of federal female inmates given psychotropic drugs increased from 42 percent in 2002 to 63 percent in 2013. At the Fraser Valley Institution for Women in B.C., 72 percent of female inmates had been prescribed psychotropic drugs as of August 7 last year.

Sapers cautioned that it’s difficult to say what the rising numbers mean. He noted that in recent years, CSC has improved screening and assessment procedures for mental-health disorders and that it’s common for diagnosed conditions to be treated with drug therapies. “It’s probably not the result of just overprescribing,” he said.

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Jackie Byrn
re: Howard Sapers/Correctional Investigator
Did Mr. Sapers disclose, to The Straight, who has been awarded the contract for screening and assessments of female inmates prior to administration of mood-altering pills? Also what is the fee being paid to the person or persons who are employed, by Corrections, for diagnosis and pharmaceutical management of females within the prison population? And lastly what quality of mood-altering pills are being distributed and what if any side effects are discussed with subjects prior to application of medical intervention for diagnosed mood disorders?
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