Going to prison is the ultimate loss of control, not just for the inmate, who is told what to do and how to do it 24/7, but for convicts' families, who never know how their loved one is faring at any given minute. Even worse are the inmates who die while completing their sentences, details of which are kept a secret from their families and authorities.
Correctional Services Canada has recently come under scrutiny and is being questioned for how it deals with families when someone dies while in prison. Joe Pinkus has brought the case of his brother, Martin Pinkus, into the limelight, reporting that in February 2015, his mother received a package at her doorstep. She was shocked to discover it contained her son’s cremated remains. He had been serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Drumheller, Alberta, for second-degree murder.
The 47-year-old Martin died in his prison cell in January 2015 and his family remained uninformed and unaware of his death until they received his remains. He was only eight months away from parole eligibility.
Although it has been more than a year since the incident, Joe Pinkus and his family are still not sure what caused Martin’s death.
"They said suicide, but we don't know what kind of suicide. Did he hang himself? Did he poison himself? We don't know any of that. They never gave us any information," he said.
A report by Howard Sapers of the Office of the Correctional Investigator has looked into how Correctional Service Canada deals with the next of kin incase an inmate dies while serving his sentence. It found that the authorities had not been transparent, compassionate or open with the families concerned.
Another case brought to light by Sapers in the report was that of a family member who came to the prison to see the body of his relative, only to be told that it had already been cremated and the remains had been sent to him via courier.
The death of a family member is an extremely painful experience. On top of that, the Correctional Service Canada’s failure at dealing with the situation with compassion and transparency makes it all the more worse for the grieving families.
Pinkus’ mother is now hospitalized and suffers from dementia. The family wanted to give Martin a proper funeral, but didn’t even get to see his body.
"Maybe there's other people out there that'd like to know how their sons died or their daughters died. It's terrible. There's no information. You do something wrong, you go to prison. But if you go to prison, you should still have some kind of human rights,” Pinkus said.
Hopefully, the CSC will be more responsible when dealing with such cases, and communicate details of what happened behind bars to the family when an inmate dies in custody.