Prisons need professionals

Canada’s federal prisons are experiencing a shortage of mentalhealth professionals, CBC News reported Nov. 9.

Fewer health professionals means initiatives that are important, but not urgent—like rehabilitation programs—tend to be overlooked at the expense of more pressing problems like suicide attempts.

Howard Sapers, Canada’s prison ombudsman, said the shortage of mental health professionals poses a threat to public safety. An estimated one third of inmates suffer from some form of mental health issue.

Many professionals are leaving their jobs in the federal prison system due to burnout or because they are seeking higher-paying jobs with provincial agencies.

In a fast-paced society where technology creates increasingly stressful work environments, the issue of professional burnout in the prison system isn’t surprising.

But the resultant shortage of mental health professionals in federal prisons presents a serious issue. With up to a third of inmates experiencing mental health problems, a shortage of qualified workers during the rehabilitation process means prisoners are more likely to re-enter society with unresolved issues.

With lingering untreated mental health conditions, ex-prisoners seem more likely to relapse into deviant behaviour. Committing the same crimes over again would be backwards progress for subjects of a system that should prioritize rehabilitation.

Reassessing priorities to provide competitive salaries for health professionals in prisons would pay off by improving rehabilitation programs.

The government should also consider giving other incentives for mental health professionals to work in the prison system.

We are Queen’s students and Kingston residents, and it’s important to discuss issues in the prison system that have a direct effect on the city we live in.

As a system designed to equip inmates with the skills to live peacefully and successfully once their sentence is up, Canada’s federal prisons should consider mental health issues an essential piece of the puzzle.

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