Thunder Bay·Audio

Mentally ill man handcuffed to bed for 3 weeks in hospital

A Thunder Bay woman says she hopes nobody has to go through what her son did while waiting for mental health help.

A Thunder Bay woman says she hopes nobody has to go through what her son did while waiting for mental health help.

Shannon Harris said her 24-year-old son was shackled to a hospital bed for nearly three weeks after he suffered a mental breakdown in early February.

"He left the house, told his girlfriend he was going to get coffee, didn't take his wallet, his keys or his jacket or mitts and it was below –30,” she said.

Her son then moved two running vehicles a short distance down the street. He was later arrested by police, and spent four days in jail until a bed became available at the hospital.

Harris said because he was still officially in custody, her son was shackled to the bed for 23 hours per day, with no ability to move, while two corrections officers watched over him day and night.

"I was totally devastated. He was not allowed any movement on the bed,” she said.

“He was shackled to the bed, even at night.”

His wrist was bound to the side of the bed, she noted, which prevented him from moving or rolling over.

"We were distressed. He was clearly disoriented,” Harris said. “He didn't know his name. He seemed physically and mentally unwell. [It was] very, very strange behaviour for my son."

After nearly three weeks of her son being tied down — and lots of discussions with the Crown attorney and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services — the charges were stayed in court. Harris said her son is now in hospital, without the shackles.

He is now getting the care he needs, she added, as "The health care providers were unable to actually give him the full benefit of medical health care due to him being basically [in] an extension of jail.”

In an email to CBC News, a ministry spokesman said there are "policies and procedures in place for responding to situations where an inmate is ill or in medical distress.

"Inmates who may not be feeling well have access to health care. Health care staff are responsible for assessing and determining treatment. There are also procedures in place for responding to inmates who may be in medical distress or who require emergency medical services. Just like in the community, 9-1-1 is utilized by corrections staff for medical emergencies and, when necessary, inmates are taken by paramedics to local hospitals (accompanied by correctional officers)," wrote Andrew Morrison.

"We require ministry officials to have appropriate procedures in place, and that immediate actions are taken when an inmate is found to be in medical distress. While in hospital an inmate may need to be restrained in the interest of their own safety, the safety of correctional staff and the safety of the public and medical staff, if the inmate is receiving care and treatment outside of the correctional facility."

He noted that visitation for inmates that are hospitalized is the same as in the jail. Two visits of 20 minutes per week is the policy, and appointments are usually booked in advance through the facility.

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