Monday, April 30, 2012

Letter from Mother of Prisoner Held at the Regional Treatment Centre in Kingston Pen, on the Announcement of the Prison Closure

Once again and not to our surprise this conservative government has demonstrated just how cold and callous they can be.  Without word or whisper, let alone a fair consultation with those who would be most impacted, it was announced to the media that several federal prisons would close.  This includes the Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario.  
Below is a letter which eloquently describes the effect this announcement and the form it took had on one woman who's son is imprisoned at KP.

On Wednesday of last week, after having been away, I had a conversation with my son’s psychiatrist at the Regional Training Centre (RTC), attached to Kingston Penitentiary. I was inquiring about my son’s health. 

For 4 years while on remand in the Ottawa Detention Centre, my son had been on anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs but due to lack of proper care became delusional and paranoid and was deemed too ill to stand trial.  He was moved back to the Royal Ottawa after a juried pre-trial hearing. Another year passed and in  November 2005 the sentencing judge ordered for him to be placed in a treatment facility.

“I saw him last week. He is doing about the same. He as been grooming and showering and has been out to yard. I have increased his dose by 25 mg. There was a concern as his TV and music was not working, but that is resolved now as the fault was due to construction and power outage.  He is put off by undue attention, so we’re keeping an eye on things. There is not much more to say at this time”

The doctor’s words were a minor relief. I dread phone calls from the RTC and making calls to inquire about his health is a stressful endeavour.  I was anxious to visit soon, as I had not seen him in over 2 months. I thanked the doctor as she said I could call her for updates.

That was on Wednesday April 18.  On April 19, I was getting lunch when CBC radio announced the closure of Kingston Penitentiary, and the Regional Treatment Centre, and another institution, the name of which did not register, because of the shock of hearing the first two.

The few seconds of disbelief soon gave way to alarm and shock. 
Lunch forgotten, I started to circle the kitchen, from the counter, to the phone, to the computer and back to the phone.  I dialled my friend’s number, asking for help in deciding where to turn, where to get information.  After leaving her a message, I quickly followed by dialling my M.P.’s office. The deputy answered the phone, and was caught by surprise at my question. He must have googled the press conference as we talked and had seen it in progress.  He assured me he would call back with details.

I phoned the Chaplain that I keep in contact with regarding my son. I left him a message on his cell phone.  I dialled the number for the RTC psychiatrist, who only works there on Tuesdays and
Thursdays, and with whom I had spoken a day earlier. The phone rang and rang, and the voice mail did not come on for me to leave a message. I got the same results to a call to the parole officer. I then sent off an email expressing concern to a contact at the Correctional Investigator’s office. 

The anxiety of waiting for information was mixed with concern for how my son will react to the news. How will he hear about it and what affect it will have on him. I have experience that he has a low threshold of tolerating distressing news.  My concern was also mixed with disbelief as I could not comprehend how, when there are reports of overcrowding and lack of spaces in care facilities, the inmates be accommodated and where would they be shipped off to.

Later that evening, I sent off a follow-up e-mail to Senator Bob Runcimen, expressing my concerns at the news. I had read that the Senator advocates that the mentally ill should not be incarcerated, but should be in secure hospital facilities.  I have been e-mailing him for help for my son’s chances for rehabilitation at a care facility in Ottawa, before his eligibility for parole. 

There was nothing to do but sit and wait. The questions and concerns were mounting in my mind.  I needed to know where my son would be sent? Could he be merged with the general prison population? He would not be able to survive if that happened. Would he be sent away somewhere else across the country? Will I be able to visit him? Will his treatment continue or will he once again fall through the cracks as he had been since he was young, ill, and undiagnosed?   I emailed the list on our Community Adult Justice Network  (CAJN) list and alerted them to the news. “Does this even make sense??”  I asked.

Some responses came back expressing concern and shock but at this point everyone had the same information.  It seems all this is still at the planning stages. No one has answers to what they are going to do with the offenders and the staff.  Someone heard that there are a number of units being built in various institutions around the region that will house the KP and RTC populations. This country is going to ruins!!

Another email report.   In fact CSC is closing 3 pens.  I can't believe this.  CBC already has a full story on their web site.
Another email said that there had been a news leak forcing the govt. to make the announcement before they could inform the staff.
The Correctional Investigator’s office responded with the assurance that the changes were not slated to take place overnight. They would not come into effect before 2013 and they would be keeping an eye on developments.  The MP’s assistant called back with the same information, now also public knowledge.

Of course, everyone was being very professional and doing their job to provide the information, but the truth was that no one had any prior information that they could share with the public. So the response that I should not worry for another year or so was not reassuring. My son will be eligible for day parole next year, and I need to know where he will be sent to rehabilitate towards a transition to parole.

The Chaplain called back. He had been on his way to the Pittsburgh institution.  When he got there he observed staff streaming towards one direction.  They were headed to hear an announcement. By this time, he had heard my phone message. He, too, promised to find out more and call me back.  It seems that all staff at all facilities were learning of the closures even as the press releases and media statements were being conducted. 

My younger daughter called, distraught over the news and confused as to what it meant for her brother. She was afraid of the possibility of not being able to see or talk to her brother if he was transferred to another province.  I tried to reassure her and promised to follow up with information.

Over the day, more TV, radio and Internet sites were providing updates.  The implications of resulting changes started to sink in.  

Where could the 140 or so inmates housed at the RTC possibly be moved? Whenever I have explored the possibility of my son moving to a care facility nearer for family contact, I have been told that is an impossible request to fulfill. There are no beds available, or the transfer from federal to provincial jurisdiction cannot be done. So, now, how will 140 mentally ill inmates be moved around and distributed among the few heavily over subscribed institutions?

The suddenness of the announcement has surprised so many people from so many sectors in these institutions. No thought seems to have been spared by the Minister of Safety, for the indelible negative effects of his decisions on the lives of thousands of men, women and children who are the professional staff and families of people in these institutions. 

A better approach would have been to inform the public including staff at these institutions, about this significant undertaking. I am particularly concerned about the negative climate that may have resulted among the professionals and workers whose jobs and lives will be affected by the changes. Most of all, I am afraid that the vulnerable inmates at RTC including my son are in distress over the news. On Saturday, April 21 my son called at 6.p.m. I was happy to hear his voice and said hello. In response, this is what he said : “I am calling to say goodbye mom, I don’t know if I will ever come out of this place alive...”

I am not sure what the source of his agony was, but I later confirmed from the psychiatrist and a supervisor, that my son’s health had deteriorated since I last talked to the psychiatrist only 3 days earlier.

Over the last 11 years, there have been recurring episodes of crisis. Thankfully, they get resolved with the help of psychiatrists and nursing staff at RTC. With the imminent cuts in staff, I may not have this personal contact with the current part-time psychiatrist at RTC, This is very worrying. My daughter and I fervently hope that for people like my son, a humane and compassionate resolution will be found and that families will not be further traumatized with such decisions that are beyond their control.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

3 Weeks Into the C10 Hunger Strike

Obert Modando is one brave soul!  I can't imagine what it must feel like to be without food for 3 weeks, but it must be very painful.  Clearly protecting his freedom and the freedom of all persons on Canadian soil is deeply, intensely important to Obert.  Please see below for Oberts demands to Parliament and law enforcement.  And please take some time to support Obert by spreading his message far and wide, talk about it with those in your life, on facebook, in your blogs, etc.  Maybe stop by Obert's Facebook page and express some words of support.

By Natalia Crowe
Retrieved from

Obert Modando is a Zimbabwe brother who was injured by police during his
arrest at Occupy Ottawa. More info about his demands and his open letter to
Parliament, delivered by MP Paul Dewar, below and at<>

Obert has 5 demands:

1. The Parliament of Canada should repeal the Safe Streets and Communities
Act in its entirety.
2. Former Ottawa Police chief and newly-appointed Senator, Vernon White,
should immediately resign.
3. The federal government should make a commitment to invest 100 times the
cost of monitoring and dismantling Occupy encampments across Canada last
fall to institute a national inquiry into the case of 600+ missing and
murdered aboriginal women and girls.
4. The House of Commons should immediately institute measures to improve
accountability and transparency. The measures should include limitations on
the governing party’s power to a) manipulate Standing Orders; b) evade
opposition scrutiny; c) shut down debate d) silence critics; and e) run
committees behind closed doors and prevent Canadians from participating.
5. The Conservative government must immediately stop its campaign against
Canadians and Canadian democracy. This campaign currently manifests through
a) the criminalization of dissent; b) promotion of a divisive agenda and
attitude; c) whipping up of unnecessary moral panic; and d) using
incendiary labels to stifle debate and criticism on its actions.

Canadian Progressive World:
Obert's Facebook Profile:
Obert on Twitter:!/Obiemad

C10 Hunger Striker

On Day Six of Indefinite Bill C-10 Hunger Strike, Obert Madondo Addresses Canadian MPs

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hepatitis C Treatment Journal- Post 1

Post 1

Personal Experience with HCV Diagnoses

 I contracted HCV the very same way many women contract it... from sharing equipment with a trusted partner.  I naively believed that he would disclose to me (out of respect and care) if he were HIV or HCV positive. Silly me!  He was Hep C positive, he knew it, and he didn't tell me about it.   

What an asshole right?

Yes and No.  If there were not such a severe stigma associated with HCV and hence with disclosing, maybe he wouldn't have been so scared to tell me.  Is fear of stigma and judgment a good enough excuse?  Not in my books, but it happens - a lot.  
He, himself contracted HCV from injecting and sharing needles in prison.  If sterile equipment had been available to him and to others in his shoes maybe there wouldn't have been anything for him to disclose to me in the first place!

We had a friend over one day who disclosed that he had contracted HCV in prison.  My partner blurted out that he also had Hep C, contracted while in prison.  This is how I found out in our 4th year together that he had Hep C, and why I suspected that I likely did too.  I had never shared injection equipment with anyone else at that time and was careful about protection in non-long term relationships.

Diagnoses Confirmed
I was diagnosed with HCV about 10-12 years ago.  I have done little else by way of monitoring and/or treating it since then.  I have however recently initiated the process for HCV genotype testing and will be writing about my experiences including the subsequent process of treatment if it is deemed necessary.  I will be participating in a program run by a community health centre in Toronto.  I chose this particular program because it offers a somewhat holistic approach to treatment.  What I mean by "somewhat" holistic is that the treatment is based pretty heavily on the medical model (for obvious reasons, but hardly supportive of holistic healing).  However, it also offers individual and group counselling/support - which makes it slightly more holistic.  

Next Steps
My first appointment is later this month.  I have already cancelled once and played phone tag with the program nurse for about a month after that.  Not sure if this was nerves or simply that other thing which causes me to cancel appointments and avoid people...depression.  In either case, I'm committed to attending the next appointment.

Hepititis C Testing and Treatment - Post 2

Post 2 
(if this journal post on Hep C treatment was of interest to you, try post 1 and my most recent - post 3 from last week)

March 2012 – sometime in about the 3rd week of the month.

So what else is new?  

I have difficulty with structured appointment times (not to mention, structure in general) and managed to miss my first screening appointment for HCV (hepatitis C) genotype testing Tuesday morning by 20 minutes.  Not bad really, but apparently nurse “M” disagreed and had left for lunch.  Reception invited me to come back at 1 o’clock when M was set to return.  I stayed and I waited.  At 1:00, they informed M was to be 20 minutes late returning from lunch!  Payback?  Probably not, but maybe....  In any case I had another appointment and needed to leave.  But knowing myself and knowing that there was no way I would return any day in the near future, and being increasingly aware that I’ve already waited about 10 years too long to look into my possible need for HCV treatment, I asked about any openings later in the day and lucked out with a 3 o’clock opening.

So finally at 3:00 pm and after some struggle, and wondering why the hell I didn’t schedule this appointment for late afternoon in the first place (especially considering my hatred for morning), I met with M, the community health Nurse.  Very sweet, considerate, and informed.

Symptoms: Something to Look Forward to?
Depression, nausea, vomiting – things to expect should Hep C treatment be necessary. 
Weight loss - the one side effect which comes as a bonus for my trouble and which I’m actually looking forward to.  Given that depression has been a constant companion since Sept 2000 when my children were kidnapped by the state, a constant companion which never departed (surprisingly) when I won the fight to bring my kids back home in 2007.  

Steps to Treatment: Genotype Testing
Side effects of this 12 year depression?   Loss of:  joy and motivation – Gain: pounds of fat.  So yes I’m looking forward to depression which culminates in weight loss instead of weight gain for a change.
The first step (recent step) in this particular little HCV exploration party was to see my family physician who took blood and confirmed only that I had been exposed to HCV at some point.  Facts I’ve long been aware of (13 years).   Blood taken today will confirm which genotype I have and whether its a type known to respond to the standard treatment, the “cure” for HCV infection; Interferon, a form of chemotherapy . Yeah!!!

About a week to go before the results come in and I know for sure if chemo will be in my immediate future.....fingers crossed for weight loss!