West Coast Prison Justice Society

Registration open! Supporting Prisoners’ Mental Health

Conference Date: June 2, 2017 | Conference Location: Vancouver Convention Centre.

Supporting Prisoners’ Mental Health: Best practices and alternatives to solitary confinement

Register now!
This day-long collaborative conference will provide a forum for medical professionals to discuss ways that they can comply with the UN Mandela Rules and advocate for their patients’ mental health in a correctional setting, navigating the waters between ethical and professional obligations and the security concerns of the prison environment.

Confirmed speakers

Dr. Gabor Maté, Best-selling author and retired medical doctor
Dr. Craig Haney, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Jennifer Wheatley, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services, Correctional Service Canada
Dr. Diane A. Rothon, Medical Director, BC Corrections
Dr. John Livesley, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia
Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin, Clinical Professor, University of British Columbia
Jean-Frédéric Boulais, Director of Investigations and General Counsel, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Conference topics will include: the harms of solitary confinement; trauma and addiction; current standards for accommodating and treating prisoners with mental health issues, including personality disorders; and implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).

We especially welcome doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and other correctional healthcare providers, as well as correctional staff whose work overlaps with mental healthcare and policy development.

Click here to register now – seats are limited. A full agenda will be available shortly. Please email info@pls-bc.ca if you have any questions.

Presented by the West Coast Prison Justice Society with funding from the Law Foundation of BC.

We’re hiring! Contract Lawyer/Prisoner Legal Education Project

Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) is looking for a passionate, problem solving, empathetic and dedicated lawyer for a 10-month contract position. We are a small non-profit society providing legal services to federal and provincial prisoners in the province of British Columbia.

The position has two components: responsibility for the Prisoner Legal Education Project and parental leave coverage for our staff lawyer/legal advocate.

Prisoner Legal Education Project: PLS produces legal education materials for prisoners on a range of topics to help clients pursue issues on their own. The contract lawyer would be responsible for reviewing our current materials for legal accuracy and for developing new materials on issues such as transgender prisoner rights, mother-child programs in prison, and making complaints to medical professional colleges.

Staff Lawyer/Legal Advocate: The staff lawyer/legal advocacy component involves providing advocacy to prisoners regarding prison legal issues, including and especially the prison disciplinary process. It also involves supervising PLS’ four other legal advocates.

Advocacy work is primarily done by telephone, fax and email. Advocacy on behalf of prisoners may involve summary advice, informal advocacy, providing written submissions and personal representation at tribunals.

Legal advocates have conduct of client files and are responsible for ensuring day-to-day tasks are scheduled and performed within relevant timeframes. This position also involves reviewing and determining the legal merit of cases and the level of service to be provided. At times it will also require the direction and supervision of the other legal advocates’ work.

This position would have a great deal of contact with prisoners, prison administrators and parole authorities.

This position requires frequent travel to prisons in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Access to a vehicle is essential. A CPIC clearance is required to visit prisons.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Must be called to the bar in BC;
  • Strong legal research and writing skills, including the ability to write effectively for lay audiences; and
  • Strong verbal and interviewing skills.

Skills and Abilities

  • Ability to be a strong advocate for disadvantaged clients, including those with low income, those with mental disabilities, or those whose first language is not English;
  • Ability to work well with others in a team setting;
  • Ability to negotiate and find creative solutions to prisoners’ legal problems;
  • Ability to exercise excellent judgment in matters of ethics and confidentiality;
  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills, in particular in dealing with prisoners, lawyers, and prison and parole officials;
  • Superb organization skills with strong follow-through and the ability to meet deadlines.
  • Familiarity with general software applications (e.g. MS Word, Outlook);
  • Willingness to assist those convicted of various crimes in a non-judgmental way; and
  • Second language or demonstrated awareness of the cultural diversity of prisoners an asset.

 

Closing date: interviews will be scheduled after July 6, 2018

Start date: ASAP

Interested applicants should submit a covering letter together with a résumé outlining how their qualifications meet the position requirements to:

Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director

Prisoners’ Legal Services/ West Coast Prison Justice Society

Tel: (604) 636-0470

Fax: (604) 636-0480

Email: jmetcalfe@pls-bc.ca

***Also check out the other position we’re hiring for here ***

News Release: Human rights complaint calls for end to solitary for prisoners with mental disabilities and independent health care in federal prisons

BURNABY, BC, June 20, 2018

Today, the West Coast Prison Justice Society (WCPJS) filed a human rights complaint against the Correctional Service of Canada on behalf of prisoners with mental disabilities.

“CSC is still using solitary confinement against prisoners engaged in life threatening self-harm, despite the overwhelming evidence that solitary confinement increases the risk of suicide” said Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services (a project of WCPJS).

The human rights complaint identifies the use of observation cells as another way that CSC keeps vulnerable prisoners isolated in conditions worse than segregation. Prisoners under high observation watch, often because they are suicidal or at risk of self-harm, are denied everything but a suicide smock, mattress and blanket. They have nothing to occupy their time and are often provided as little as 10 minutes of meaningful human contact each day.

“While Canada is appealing the BC Supreme Court decision that found segregation is discriminatory against prisoners with mental disabilities and Indigenous prisoners, people continue to suffer what the UN says is torture or cruel treatment. Our clients are at risk of dying from living under these conditions. They cannot wait while the government fights to continue to use these practices through the appeal courts. It’s shameful,” said Ms. Metcalfe.

The complaint also identifies a lack of therapeutic treatment for the high percentage of prisoners who suffer from past trauma and addictions, and a lack of services for maximum-security prisoners who are often in the greatest need of help and are disproportionately Indigenous, as discriminatory under human rights law.

The complaint seeks health services, including trauma and addictions counselling, to be provided independently through agreements with the provincial ministries of health, so that prisoners can develop a trusting relationship with their caregivers.

Prisoners’ Legal Services is representing Indigenous prisoner Joey Toutsaint in a related human rights complaint against CSC for its use of solitary confinement, including observation cells and segregation, and for failing to provide therapeutic services to assist him with his trauma and self-harm.

“That’s not a suicide cell, that’s a torture chamber,” Mr. Toutsaint said in reference to being placed in an observation cell. “If I talk about my self-harm, they told me they aren’t going to negotiate – they’re going to gas me and throw me in an obs cell. I’m asking for help and no one wants to help me. Every day I have an anxiety attack. I can’t sleep at night. I can’t hold it in much longer. I don’t want to die”, he said.

Click here to see a copy of the representative complaint and here to see a copy of Mr. Toutsaint’s complaint.

Media contact:

Jennifer Metcalfe
jmetcalfe@pls-bc.ca
604-636-0470

We’re hiring! Legal Advocate

LEGAL ADVOCATE

Prisoners’ Legal Services is looking for a passionate, problem solving, empathetic and dedicated advocate for prisoners’ rights, with a focus on women prisoners, youth and health care issues.

We are a small non-profit society providing legal services to federal and provincial prisoners in the province of British Columbia.

The legal advocate position involves providing advocacy to prisoners regarding prison legal issues.  This work is primarily done by telephone, fax and email.  Advocacy on behalf of prisoners may involve summary advice, informal advocacy, providing written submissions and personal representation at tribunals.

Legal advocates have conduct of client files and are responsible for ensuring day-to-day tasks are scheduled and performed within relevant timeframes.  The job involves reviewing and determining the legal merit of cases and determining the level of service to be provided. Legal advocates work under the supervision of a lawyer.

Legal advocates have a great deal of contact with prisoners, prison administrators and parole authorities.

This position requires frequent travel to prisons in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Access to a vehicle is essential. A CPIC clearance is required to visit prisons.

Basic Qualifications:

  • Post-secondary education in Law, Criminology, Social Work, Paralegal training or equivalent;
  • Strong verbal, written and interviewing skills; and
  • Experience in a legal environment or advocacy an asset.

Skills and Abilities

  • ability to be a strong advocate for disadvantaged clients, including those with low income, those with mental disabilities, or those whose first language is not English;
  • ability to work well with others in a team setting;
  • ability to negotiate and find creative solutions to prisoners’ legal problems;
  • ability to exercise excellent judgment in matters of ethics and confidentiality;
  • must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, in particular in dealing with prisoners, lawyers, and prison and parole officials;
  • must be familiar with general software applications (e.g. MS Word, Outlook);
  • must be willing and prepared to assist those convicted of various crimes in a non-judgmental way; and
  • second language or demonstrated awareness of the cultural diversity of prisoners an asset.

Salary:  $52,584 (benefits after six months)

Closing date:  June 27, 2018

Start date:  ASAP

Interested applicants should submit a covering letter together with a résumé outlining how their qualifications meet the position requirements to:

 

Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director

Prisoners’ Legal Services/
West Coast Prison Justice Society

Tel: (604) 636-0470

Fax:  (604) 636-0480

Email: jmetcalfe@pls-bc.ca

prisonjustice.org

***Also check out the other position we’re hiring for here***

News Release: Human Rights of Federal Prisoners with Opioid Use Disorder Being Violated, Says Prison Justice Group

June 4, 2018 – Burnaby BC

Today, the West Coast Prison Justice Society (WCPJS) filed a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Correctional Service Canada on behalf of all federal prisoners who have been denied life-saving treatment for opioid use disorder.

Prisoners’ Legal Services (a project of WCPJS) spoke with approximately 75 Canadian prisoners suffering from opioid use disorder, many of whom reported waitlists for opioid substitution therapy of many months to over one year. WCPJS is concerned that prisoners are at great risk of fatal overdose, and HIV and hepatitis C infection because of barriers to treatment with Suboxone or methadone, as well as a lack of adequate harm reduction initiatives and psychosocial therapy.

Other prisoners reported having been cut off Suboxone or methadone, some cold-turkey, and suffering painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, on the basis of unproven speculation that they were trying to share medication with other prisoners. Some reported being cut off medication without an opportunity to speak with their doctors first.

The complaint asserts that these practices discriminate against prisoners who suffer from addiction, which is considered a disability under human rights law, as well as against Indigenous and Black prisoners who are disproportionately affected.

The complaint cites research that shows psychosocial therapy adds to the effectiveness of medication, and that many prisoners have histories of trauma.

“Providing treatment for opioid use disorder helps prisoners to heal, rehabilitate and become productive, law abiding members of the community,” said Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services.

“Correctional Service of Canada has an opportunity to provide essential health services to some of the most vulnerable people in society when they come into prison. It is disheartening that CSC is failing to do so at a time when an estimated 4,000 people died of fentanyl overdose in Canada last year”, she said.

Media contact:

Nicole Kief
Legal Advocate
604-636-0470
nkief@pls-bc.ca

Solitary Confinement Public Panel Talk

Join us next Tuesday, February 6th for a free panel talk on the BC Supreme Court’s decision to end indefinite solitary confinement.

On January 17, 2018, the BCCLA won a constitutional challenge to indefinite solitary confinement in federal prisons across Canada, but our work is far from over. Within 12 months, the government will have to decide how the BC Supreme Court’s ruling will be reflected in the law.

Join us next week as we discuss what’s next in the fight against indefinite solitary confinement. Panelists will be unpacking the decision, its impact on prison justice, and mapping what’s to come.

What: Challenging Solitary Confinement Public Panel

When: Tuesday, February 6, 2018. 6-8 pm.

Where: Room 2270, SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings Read More

Joint News Release: Changes to the way transgender offenders are accommodated in Canada’s federal prison system

January 31, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS)

An important collaboration spanning several years between the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) has resulted in changes to the way transgender offenders are accommodated in Canada’s federal prison system.

These changes come in the wake of Parliament’s recent change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which added “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

In the context of its daily operations, CSC will continue to provide education and awareness to staff and offenders and work to ensure that the health, safety and dignity of everyone is respected at all times. New operational practices for CSC include:

  • Placing an offender in a men’s or women’s institution according to their gender identity, if it is their preference, regardless of their anatomy or gender on their identification documents, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved.
  • Using an offender’s preferred name and pronoun in all oral interaction and written documentation.
  • Allowing offenders to purchase authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health or security concerns according to the security level of their institution.
  • Taking steps to maximize the privacy and confidentiality of information related to an offender’s gender identity. Information about an offender’s gender identity will only be shared with those directly involved with the offender’s care, and only when relevant.
  • Offering individualized protocols for offenders who seek to be accommodated on the basis of gender identity or expression to ensure, among other things:
    • the safety, privacy and dignity of an offender when they access shower and/or toilet facilities; and
    • the choice of male or female staff to conduct frisk and strip searches, urinalysis testing, and camera surveillance.

All three organizations look forward to further collaboration and successful implementation of these changes. As CSC updates its individual policies, it will continue to count on the valuable contribution of correctional experts and stakeholders, such as the CHRC and PLS, labour partners, academia and experts in gender and identity issues.

For more information, please read CSC’s Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression.

Quotes

“We are overjoyed that CSC is making so many positive changes that recognize the human rights of trans people in the correctional system. These changes will improve the safety and dignity of transgender federal offenders in Canada, affecting every aspect of their daily lives.”
-Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director, Prisoners’ Legal Services

“We have heard the concerns raised by trans individuals and advocates, and we are pleased to see these significant improvements become a reality, for the rights of transgender offenders, and their families. This is about respect and human dignity—something that every person, including those in our prison system, is entitled to.”
—Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

“These changes ensure that offenders who identify as transgender are afforded the same protections, dignity and treatment as others. CSC is committed to building a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone, including transgender staff, offenders, volunteers and visitors.”
—Don Head, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada

Associated Links

CSC Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression

CHRC Website – Prisoner Rights

Prisoner’s Legal Services
 

Stay Connected

Follow us on Twitter @CdnHumanRights and Facebook.

Watch us on YouTube

Follow CSC on Facebook and Twitter @CSC_SCC_en

 

Media Contacts

Prisoners’ Legal Services Media Relations
Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director:
604-636-0470
jmetcalfe@pls-bc.ca

Canadian Human Rights Commission Media Relations
613-943-9118
communications@chrc-ccdp.gc.ca

Correctional Service Canada Media Relations
613-992-7711
media@csc-scc.gc.ca

 

 

– 30 –

Status of Women – Study on Indigenous Women Prisoners

Prisoners’ Legal Services executive director, Jennifer Metcalfe, appeared today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women as part of their current study on Indigenous women prisoners. Click here to read her speaking notes.

Ms. Metcalfe called on government to engage with First Nations and Indigenous organizations for self-determination in the administration of correctional services, and to ensure that they are well resourced to provide full wrap-around support for women who have experienced multi-generational trauma.

Inside/Out: A Prison Memoir at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Join us at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival for Inside/Out, a memoir about life in the Canadian prison system.

Inside/Out follows Patrick Keating’s journey as a child growing up in Montreal, getting into drugs and crime, entering the juvenile detention system at the age of 16, and serving a total of three sentences, one for bank robbery. Patrick’s honest and engaging delivery of his funny, sad, and stirring true story helps dismantle our ideas of what a ‘criminal’ looks like – and helps us better understand how language, race, and class play a very real part in our lives as Canadians. It’s about a man’s search for community: the community of the street, the community of prison, and of the theatre.

There will be post-show talkbacks after each performance hosted by Pivot Legal Society with Prisoners’ Legal Services.

January 17–21, 2018
80 minutes, no intermission

7:00PM (January 17–20)
2:00PM (January 21)

There will be a captioned performance on Sunday, January 21st at 2:00 pm for Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing.

Regular tickets are $39 (incl. taxes) | Group tickets (10 or more) are only $28.20! BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE For questions or accessibility concerns, please contact Accessible PuSh Coordinator Anika Vervecken: access@pushfestival.ca | 604.605.8284 ext. 204

CSC Policy: Consideration of Aboriginal Social History

Correctional Service Canada is currently updating policy regarding the consideration of Aboriginal Social History in the administration of Indigenous prisoners’ sentences. PLS supports these initiatives and provided feedback on making this policy even stronger. You can read our comments here.

Prisoners’ Legal Services recommends reforms to British Columbia correctional laws.

Today, Prisoners’ Legal Services wrote to Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth with a list of recommendations for legislative reforms that would improve the lives of BC provincial prisoners. You can read our list of recommendations here.

We hope the new BC government will take this opportunity to reform prison law to be in compliance with the United Nations’ Mandela Rules and abolish the use of solitary confinement in BC which is considered to be torture or cruel treatment if it is used for more than 15 days or on prisoners with mental disabilities. We also call for more resources to support prisoners with mental health needs.

%d bloggers like this: