The coroner’s inquest into McKenzie’s death took place last week at the Coronet Hotel in Prince Albert and the jury returned with eight recommendations to help prevent similar deaths from happening in the future. Recommendations, to help improve inmate assessments, included lower workloads for nurses and parole officers, and an interview room to assess inmates who, like McKenzie, could have been placed in a cell medical observation.
During the inquest, it was revealed that the Medical Officer of Health who carried out the assessment did so through the cell door. McKenzie was eventually released into the firing range and attempted suicide shortly thereafter.
Reflecting on the jury’s recommendations, Tu’Inukuafe explained that he remembered a quote familiar to those who have done a lot of prison time.
“The quote says we’re used to being watched, but we’re not used to being seen,” he said, explaining that the moment a person arrives at the facility there is always a camera. who watches her.
Tu’Inukuafe said the system has always been good at monitoring, but fails to know the needs of offenders. So, after hearing suggestions for improving communication, Tu’Inukuafe feels encouraged.
“For me, that really means getting to know the individual. Not from a surveillance point of view but from a human point of view,” he said.
Tu’Inukuafe met McKenzie in 2017 while McKenzie was still being held at the Regional Psychiatric Center (RPC) in Saskatoon. When McKenzie was released into the community in September 2019, the pair traveled to various communities together to give presentations.
“There are always people who don’t want support, but with Curtis he was always open to support. He was one of those people who wanted to do well, who wanted to excel and who wanted to take care of his mental health. so that we don’t have to go back to jail,” Tu’Inukuafe said.
Three months after his release, McKenzie violated his release conditions and was sent back to Saskatchewan. Penitentiary. Tu’Inukuafe admitted he was surprised McKenzie was not returned to the RPC, adding that McKenzie’s story should have been well documented by then.
Moving forward, Tu’Inukuafe said his next questions relate to accountability and ensuring recommendations are followed.
“Who makes sure that people progress? ” He asked.
As next of kin, it was Tu’Inukuafe who made the effort to find McKenzie’s mother in La Ronge and inform her of what happened to her son. Tu’Inukuafe recalled how the community stepped in to help the family, noting the meal provided at the Bernice Sayase Center.
“It shows me [the] the community should be more involved in working with individuals because that is where they are liberated,” he said.
Following the coroner’s inquest, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) confirmed for paNOW through a statement, they will convene an Internal Board of Inquiry (BOI).
“CSC will conduct a full review of all recommendations we receive following a coroner’s inquest and will give these recommendations our full attention. We will continuously monitor and evaluate all of our policies and programs, including those that may be made in relation to recommendations issued by a jury,” the statement read.
Investigative processes are conducted in accordance with Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 041 – Incident Investigations. Like all CSC inquests into deaths in custody, it includes a member of the community as a board member.
“Coroner’s Boards of Inquiry and Inquests provide an opportunity for CSC to improve the way we manage inmates in our care and custody,” the statement said.
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell