Ontario Review of Psychiatric Wait Times in Jail Kept Secret

Ontario is keeping secret a review of wait times for prisoners seeking psychiatric treatment in provincial jails.

Angelique Jahn holds a photo of her sister Christina in her Rideau Lakes home south of Ottawa. Christina Jahn, whose human rights complaint against the Ontario corrections ministry led to promised reforms, is terminally ill with cancer.

By: Amy Dempsey GTA, Published on Thu Jan 15 2015

Christina Jahn, who had a mental illness and terminal cancer, was held at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre in 2011 abd 2012.

Ontario has completed a review of wait times for inmates seeking psychiatric treatment in provincial jails, but the corrections ministry is keeping the results secret.

The ministry committed to the review as part of a landmark settlement reached in September 2013 with Christina Jahn, an Ottawa prisoner with a mental illness and terminal cancer who was kept in solitary confinement for more than 200 days.

Ministry spokesman Brent Ross said the review of wait times will be used to “inform the ongoing work that we are doing to transform the correctional system,” but it will not be made public because it contains “confidential information.”

The ministry would not say what kind of confidential information the report contains or explain why the wait times could not be isolated and provided separately from the review.

“That makes no sense,” said Paul Champ, an Ottawa lawyer who represented Jahn in the case before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. “If the ministry knows these wait times, the hard data should be disclosed so it can be reviewed and discussed by the public and experts in the field.”

The Jahn settlement forced the ministry to agree to sweeping changes to better meet the mental health needs of inmates. The promised “public interest remedies” or “Jahn remedies,” as they have since become known were detailed in a six-page document signed Sept. 24, 2013, with deadlines ranging from six to 18 months.

Among the commitments: screening all inmates for mental illness;training front-line staff on mental health issues;measuring the need for a psychiatric treatment centre for female prisoners; and only using solitary confinement as a last resort for people with mental illness.

Champ commended the ministry for committing to the systemic changes, but he said it has been difficult to assess the impact. When Jahn was in segregation at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Champ said, she saw the jail’s overworked psychiatrists infrequently and often only for a few minutes through a hatch in her cell door

Reproduced from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/01/15/ontario-review-of-psychiatric-wait-times-in-jail-kept-secret.html