New Brunswick

Prison system 'ill-equipped' for mentally ill inmates, inquest told

Canada's prison system is ill-equipped to deal with inmates with significant mental health issues, a coroner's inquest in Moncton was told Wednesday by a retired Correctional Service of Canada worker.

Glen Edward Wareham's 2010 death as an inmate at Shepody Healing Centre came after years of extreme self-harm

Glen Edward Wareham, 28, was from New Waterford, N.S. (McLellan Bros. Funeral Home/InMemorium.ca)

Canada's prison system is ill-equipped to deal with inmates with significant mental health issues, a coroner's inquest in Moncton was told Wednesday by a retired Correctional Service of Canada employee.

David Price was testifying in the inquest into the 2010 death of Glen Edward Wareham, 28, of New Waterford, N.S., who was an inmate in the prison system's Shepody Healing Centre in Dorchester at the time of his death.

The inquest has heard Wareham would engage in extreme acts of self-harm and ultimately died as a result.

For instance, he would find ways to open old wounds in his abdomen — by using a toothbrush, for example — and then reach inside and feel his intestines and bowel.

As a result of recurring injuries over the years, Wareham's bowel shut down due to the damage and Wareham died in hospital with no treatment options available.

Price was a unit manager for the Correctional Service of Canada at the time of Wareham's death, with responsibility for two units of the Dorchester Penitentiary, as well as the Shepody Healing Centre, which is the prison system's facility in Atlantic Canada for inmates with mental health issues.

Officers not trained

Price notes that correctional officers are not trained in mental health. They are training in custody and control to make sure the prison staff and public are safe, he said.

"Correctional services is ill-equipped to deal with patients with significant mental health problems," said Price.

"Correctional officers don't know how to deal with mentally ill patients."

Dr. Bernard Galarneau, a clinical and forensic psychologist at Dorchester and Shepody, testified it would have been useful for prison officers to have a better understanding of mental health.

"The power structure at Shepody was problematic," he said.

"The officers were not under me so I couldn't say anything to them.

"I was an outsider and that was problematic."

History of abuse

The inquest has heard Wareham was a problematic child who first became involved with the corrections system when he was 12 and was placed in a provincial care unit in Nova Scotia, where he didn't do well," said Price.

Wareham was later in a facility in Shelbourne were he was sexually assaulted. When placed in a psychiatric facility, he engaged in sexual activity with a nurse who was many years older.

His whole life, he has been abused.- David Price, retired CBC unit manager

When he was six, Wareham and his sister were abused by their stepfather, who was prosecuted for cutting Wareham's penis.

"His whole life, he has been abused," said Price.

Medical professionals in the prison system who were involved in Wareham's case said they don't know what more they could have done to try and save Wareham from himself.

The inquest will give the coroner's jury an opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths similar to Wareham's in the future.

The inquest resumes Thursday.

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