Shocked Relatives Receive Inmate’s Ashes in Post
Imagine the trauma of receiving a parcel in the post containing the ashes of a loved one you believe to be alive and well?
A mother signed for a nondescript parcel in January 2015 that would be the first and only notification of her son Martin Pinkus’s death. Prior to that she had believed Martin (47) to be safely incarcerated in the Correctional Services of Canada (CSC).
Martin’s brother, Joel has spoken out about the heartbreak of the experience and of the frustration caused by the lack of information received from the CSC. The family was only told that Martin committed suicide – no other information or details have been forthcoming despite their repeated questions.
Sadly,the Pinkus family’s experience is not an isolated case. In a report released on July 29th, Howard Sapers from the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI), confirmed that a long over-due investigation has revealed the CSC has become notorious for perpetuating a hurtful cycle of poor communication and lack of empathy towards the families of inmates who die while incarcerated.
It emerged that the CSC blames this practice on the Privacy and Access to Information Acts. Joel Pinkus considers this was a violation of the human rights of inmates. According to Sapers, the investigation found the absence of proactive sharing of information by the CSC, bred understandable fear and suspicion among grieving family members. Furthermore, it violated their ability to seek legal recourse where appropriate.
A comparison of 7 cases during the investigation highlighted the practice of severe censorship of information conveyed to family members. Families have been denied details of Mortality Reviews and National Board of Investigation reports, for years, in CSC practices that keep the truth as locked up as its prisoners. This looks set to changed.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety has given his assurance that he will work with CSC to review and implement the comprehensive recommendations made by the OCI’s report. These included training CSC staff, releasing pertinent information early and respectfully, and supplying families with informational resources regarding procedures and their rights, and the responsibilities of the CSC.