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Correctional Service Canada Official Statement

"The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) takes the death of an inmate very seriously. The loss of a life is a tragedy at any time, and the death of Ashley Smith had a profound impact on CSC and those working in the criminal justice system. CSC has made important changes to provide safe and human care to offenders with mental health needs since her death.

Following the completion of the Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, CSC conducted its own comprehensive review of the findings and recommendations. CSC has made meaningful enhancements to inmate health care and we have created Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), and Enhanced Support Houses (ESHs) in women’s institutions, which have replaced administrative segregation.

At CSC, we employ a group of qualified and compassionate health and mental health professionals who focus on the individual health needs of each offender. Our health services are accredited by Accreditation Canada and this ensures essential health care services are available to each offender throughout their incarceration, as well as into their release into the community.

Over the years, CSC's approach to the provision of mental health services has continued to evolve based on best practices and lessons learned. For example, since 2007, CSC has worked to strengthen its health services sector by implementing a Health Care Governance model in its institutions and treatment centres that focus on providing staff with clinical support and leadership. To further this support, CSC implemented a National Medical Advisory Committee to further enhance the leadership role of physicians who work with CSC, as well as a professional practice leadership structure across the country. Additionally in 2019, changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) gave clinical independence and autonomy to health care professionals providing services within CSC to allow our health care staff to continue to focus on the individual health needs of our offenders.

We have also implemented a Suicide Prevention and Intervention Strategy, as well as a clinical framework to better identify, manage and intervene with individuals who have suicide vulnerabilities, which includes individualized treatment plans to address those vulnerabilities. In view of the mental health needs of federally incarcerated women, CSC offers Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), an evidence based treatment that targets significant behavioural and emotional dysregulations (e.g., self injury, anger outbursts). We also provide training to front-line staff that fosters better understanding of the mental health needs of our offenders.

Since 2017, CSC has invested in mental health supports that will enhance the assessment and early diagnosis of an offender’s mental health, enhance our primary and acute mental health care, and develop patient advocacy services and 24/7 health care at designated institutions. It’s important to note that many of these elements were reflected in the recommendations received from the Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.

In 2019, CSC abolished administrative and disciplinary segregation and created Structure Intervention Units, or SIUs, a transformational and historic change to federal corrections. An inmate's transfer to an SIU occurs when their presence in a mainstream population jeopardizes the safety of the inmate or any other inmate, staff or visitor. SIUs are not about punishment or causing harm. They are meant as a temporary measure to help inmates adopt more positive behaviours that keep the institution as a whole, safe and secure. SIUs are used as a last resort once we have exhausted all other alternatives and always include consideration of the inmate’s state of health and/or health care needs.

While in an SIU, CSC provides inmates with targeted interventions and programs to support their safe return to a mainstream inmate population as soon as possible, as well as assessments and continuous review of any health concerns. All inmates in SIUs are offered the opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day out of their cell, including two hours a day for interaction with others. Inmates receive multiple opportunities each day to leave their cells.

Our Enhanced Support Houses, or ESHs, were implemented in our women’s institutions alongside the implementations of SIUs. The ESH is a voluntary short-term supportive environment for inmates who have high needs, difficulty with interpersonal and independent living skills, and those who require more frequent interventions by staff. There is no change to conditions of confinement for inmates who are placed in the ESH, and inmates residing in this unit continue to attend recommended programming, employment, and/or school.

CSC has seen an increase these last few years in the successful reintegration and safe return of offenders back in the mainstream inmate population following a stay in an SIU. Over the past two years, the rate of successful reintegration has increased and there are consistently less than 180 inmates in SIUs across the country on a daily basis, representing about 1.5 per cent of the total inmate population.

CSC continues to develop ways to improve the care and safety we provide our offenders while they are incarcerated to better support their safe reintegration back into our communities"

Response to the Coroner's Inquest Touching the Death of Ashley Smith:

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