Inquest into inmate Glen Edward Wareham's death underway
Correctional investigator of Canada says long delays lead to frustration for families of the deceased
The mother of an inmate at the Shepody Healing Centre in Dorchester who died in hospital in 2010 told an inquest into her son's death on Monday that the Correctional Service of Canada should have a more active approach to deal with inmates with mental health issues.
Glen Edward Wareham, 28, of New Waterford, N.S. died in hospital April 29, 2010, after a long history of self-harm. The coroner's inquest into his death heard Monday that Wareham was first placed in a youth facility in Nova Scotia for six months for skipping school.
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Wareham's mother, Heather Locke, testified in the inquest Monday that abuse in her son's life combined to put him "over the edge." She tried to get counselling for her son, but he didn't want to talk about the abuse, she said.
By the time he was 16, Wareham was into drugs including cocaine and eventually he went on crime spree with a woman he met in a methadone program.
Self-harm with hunting knife
When Wareham was first sentenced to Shepody Healing Centre — a Correctional Service of Canada facility for prisoners with mental health issues — Locke went to visit him and found him in restraints when she arrived and wearing a hockey helmet.
"It was the most horrendous thing," she testified.
Wareham was in restraints, including leg shackes, full-time at Shepody.
Wareham spend 17 months hospital in Moncton and Locke said it was difficult for her to get information about her son. She was told to direct all her questions about her son to prison officials.
Locke testified her son's doctor was less than professional in the care of her son.
Officers would go into her son's hospital room and turn the television on and raise the volume when he was sleeping, she testified.
But he's still my son and I loved him.- Heather Locke, mother of Glen Wareham
Locke said there were officers who were very good and others who were "evil."
Locke said she was not at the inquest to defend what her son did.
"But he's still my son and I loved him."
On the night Wareham died, Locke climbed into his hospital bed with him and held him until he died.
Prison watchdog watching
Canada's prison watchdog will be closely following the coroner's inquest.
"Whenever there is an unexpected or unnatural death in custody, particularly one that happens under suspicious circumstances, it's important to try to learn from that death so that others could be prevented," said Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator of Canada.
He said every death of an inmate is subject to some form of investigation.
"We'll probably see between 60 and 70 deaths in federal penitentiaries this year, some of those deaths will result from natural causes, many won't and it's important to try to understand how it is that people's lives are put to risk while they are inside a jail or prison," he said.
Chief coroner Gregory Forestell is presiding over the inquest and a jury is hearing testimony from subpoenaed witnesses to determine the facts around Wareham's death.
The jury will be given the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances in the future.
He said he couldn't go into specific details about the findings of his report, but he is looking forward to getting the results of the coroner's inquest, which is expected to take two weeks.
"In this case, this death raises some very, very challenging issues and so an inquest is certainly in order and will hopefully result in some recommendations that the Correctional Service of Canada could implement to prevent other deaths," he said.
Wareham died over six years ago, but Sapers said lengthy waits for answers is unfortunately not uncommon.
"It is very frustrating, particularly to the families," said Sapers.
"Keep in mind offenders have families and their families are very concerned about these circumstances under which their loved ones died and so these are very very long delays that we typically experience."
When it comes to the effectiveness of coroner's inquest, Sapers points to the facts surrounding Ashley Smith's death inside the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont. in 2007.
"Ashley died inside a segregation cell, when we examined prison suicide what we found is that nearly half of them over a three-year period that we were studying took place inside a segregation cell."
Smith, 19, was originally from Moncton, N.B. She died from self-inflicted choking, while guards watched.
"It's very frustrating because that usually results in similar recommendations and we see recommendations made over and over and over again," said Sapers.
With files from Vanessa Blanch, Tori Weldon