Manitoba

Inmate assaulted by guard criticizes remand centre medication protocol

A former inmate who was assaulted by a guard at the Winnipeg Remand Centre is breaking his silence about the incident over fears that inmates might not get access to medication.

Inmate says assault might never have happened had Remand Centre kept him on his meds

A former inmate who was assaulted by a guard at the Winnipeg Remand Centre is breaking his silence about the incident over fears that inmates might not get access to medication. 3:45

A former inmate who was assaulted by a guard at the Winnipeg Remand Centre is breaking his silence about the incident over fears that inmates might not get access to medication.

The inmate, whom CBC News is not identifying, was assaulted by a provincial corrections officer at the Winnipeg Remand Centre in 2012, according to court records.  
Inside Winnipeg Remand Centre (CBC)

"I guess she was having a bad day and wanted to take it out on somebody and that was me," the former inmate said in an interview with the CBC I-Team.

The former inmate suffers from bipolar and anxiety disorders and for years had been taking four medications to treat his illness. When he got to the remand centre, he said he wasn't allowed to take those medications.  

"I've been on my medications for 23 years, religiously taking them. They're anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and an anti-psychotic. I was being held on a special needs floor where you'd think that I would be getting my medication, but I was denied," he said.

"It would have brought my anxiety down so that I could handle the situation. I knew it was a minor charge, that I'd be out."

Guard was convicted of assaulting inmate in the Winnipeg Remand Centre. The inmate says he was denied his medication while serving time there. (CBC Manitoba)

He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, which was pepper spray, and sentenced to 18 days in jail

The first 13 days, he spent at the remand centre. He said he didn't see a doctor until he had been at the remand centre for three days.  He said that when he finally did see a doctor, he was given only one medication which was not identified to him.

He was in the remand centre for 13 days without his regular medications, he said.

He added that if the remand centre had maintained his medications, he likely would not have been verbally aggressive toward the guard and said the words that provoked her.

He said he's speaking out now in response to the case of Bradley Errol Greene, a 26-year-old who went into an epileptic seizure while at the remand centre last month and later died.  Greene's wife said he had not received his medication for epilepsy for three days.

"People with mental health issues and other issues -- like any health issue -- need to have their medication, no matter what. And I think that they should have a better system to ensure those people have their medication," the former inmate said.

Former inmate says he was denied his medication while inside the Remand Centre. (CBC Manitoba)

In his case, the corrections officer charged with assaulting him in 2012 lost her job, pleaded guilty, and was ordered to do community service in 2015.  Three other corrections officers complicit in the incident also lost their jobs, court records show.

Manitoba Justice declined an interview request but a spokesperson said in a statement the department "takes the health and well-being of all inmates very seriously", and handles no fewer than 100 medical emergencies per year, in addition to non-emergency health needs.

The spokesperson said medical staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"When an offender is admitted to the Winnipeg Remand Centre, they are assessed by a nurse.  If the offender is on medication and it can be verified, generally it is continued," the spokesperson said.  "If the medication cannot be verified through community health care providers or if there are any potential issues, the offender is booked to see the institutional physician.  A contract physician attends each business day."

The spokesperson said in addition to correctional psychiatric nurses, two psychiatrists provide three clinics per week at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Manitoba Justice said it consistently reviews the provision of health care services to inmates and revises policy when necessary.

The province would not address specific cases.

Canadian Mental Health Association Executive Director Marion Cooper points out people with mental health concerns are over-represented in jails.
Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Marion Cooper said abruptly stopping a patient's medications is very risky. (CBC)

"It's certainly an ongoing issue around making sure people get timely treatment when they're incarcerated. Because their mental health needs don't stop the moment they are in jail," Cooper said.

She also said it's problematic if a patient suddenly stops getting regularly prescribed medications.

"For medications to be stopped quickly, or abruptly is very, very risky and concerning," said Cooper.

The John Howard Society in Winnipeg, executive director John Hutton said he thinks it's unusual for an inmate to go without medications for three days, and he finds that troubling. He said the issue should be reviewed. 1:10

At the John Howard Society in Winnipeg, executive director John Hutton said he thinks it's unusual for an inmate to go without medications for three days, and he finds that troubling.  He said the issue should be reviewed.

"The concern that's been expressed, is they're concerned about controlling drugs within the correctional centres, controlling access to drugs. And there have been issues," Hutton said.

"People have died of accidental overdose by using somebody else's prescription medication. And so there are some safety concerns about that. And they're concerned about people that might be trafficking or selling medications as well. I would assume that it's for a security reason."

"So if they prescribe it themselves, then they control it and they know exactly what's coming in," said Hutton.

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with files from Holly Moore.