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Senator Bob Runciman is criticizing the leadership of Corrections Canada. Just over a week ago, Canada’s Prison Watchdog released his annual report on the state of the prison system. And Runciman says it points to the need for sweeping reforms in the treatment of certain inmates. Newswatch’s Heather Senoran explains.

After reading Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers annual report earlier this month, Senator Bob Runciman is concerned. He says it reveals Correctional Services of Canada continues to fail its most vulnerable inmates.

Bob Runciman/Senator
“Take it out of the hands of Correctional Services if they’re not prepared to handle it appropriately. But my primary concern is the treatment of mentally ill females.”

“Inmates like Ashley Smith. The 19 year old was on suicide watch, when she strangled herself in 2007 at Grand Valley Institution — while guards were watching her on video monitors. It was 45 minutes before guards or supervisors entered her cell.”

More than 100 recommendations were made by the coroner’s inquest jury into Smith’s death.  The Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes Senator says key recommendations have still not been acted on.  “They spent around 5 million dollars of tax payers money to fight the inquest. It’s all about findings of criticism.”

Jason Godin, Vice-President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says guards do an exceptional job managing over 15,000 inmates every day…with 20 percent of inmates suffering from some form of mental illness.

Jason Godin Vice-President, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers:
“We offer all the same services as a psychiatric hospital with the exception of chemical restraints.”

Godin calls Runciman’s criticisms completely inaccurate.

“First of all, the Correctional Service of Canada doesn’t HAVE to adopt any of those recommendations, although they’ve adopted majority of them. Then there’s some of those recommendations that quite frankly can’t be implemented because there was 3 million dollars cut out of the CSC’s budget by Mr. Runciman’s government.”

Runciman counters that Conservative cuts have nothing to do with it.

“I don’t think that’s been the problem. I think it’s been Correctional Services, the management at Correctional Services, the senior leadership at Correctional Services… in government past and present.”  Runciman suggests the CSC come out with its own, more detailed annual report, outlining the progress it’s making to improve the system.

Heather Senoran CKWS Newswatch, Brockville.

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