Beyond the Fence: A virtual tour of a Canadian penitentiary - Health care centre

This is a health care centre. CSC provides all inmates with essential health care, including mental health care, based on their identified health needs. Health services are provided in line with professional standards. Inmates can schedule an appointment with a physician or other health professionals at the centre. This includes nurses, dentists, psychologists, and social workers. CSC Health Services are accredited, and health care professionals are registered or licensed in Canada. Access to health care contributes to an inmate’s rehabilitation and their successful return to the community.

Nursing Care

Treatment room in a health care centreCSC provides all inmates with essential health care based on their identified health needs. There is a nurses’ station, medication dispensary and treatment room in every institution. CSC nurses are licensed by their province’s College of Nurses. When an inmate initiates a request for health services, a nurse triages this request, and books appointments for the inmates based on the urgency of their condition. Nurses administer medication, and provide health care and information for conditions such as the common cold or flu, allergies, chronic illnesses (such as diabetes or high blood pressure) infectious diseases, and mental health issues.

Physicians attend the institutions on a regular basis to assess inmates and discuss health care options. Other health care professionals at CSC include pharmacists, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, and other relevant specialists.

Medication Access

Medication sampleAll prescribed medication is carefully managed by health care professionals, and locked in highly secure areas. There is a strict system to log and track medication. Nurses check all medications before administering them to the offenders. If appropriate, some medication (such as cholesterol or blood pressure pills) can be given to an inmate in a “blister pack” containing several weeks’ worth of medication to be self-administered. Narcotics and controlled medications (those with a higher risk of abuse) are provided to the inmate in either individual or daily doses. CSC health care professionals respond to each inmate’s unique needs throughout their sentence, with quality health care that meets both professionally accepted standards and ensures patient safety.

The Dentist

Dentist officeCSC contracts the services of dentists and dental assistants, who provide inmates with essential dental care. This includes fillings, extractions, x-rays and root canals. Inmates may request a dental appointment, and these requests are triaged by the dentist. Routine dental hygiene (cleaning or polishing) is only authorized following an assessment and diagnosis of dental disease where these services are a necessary component to managing the condition.

Mental Health

Addressing the mental health needs of offenders is a priority for CSC. Mental health care contributes to an offender’s rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community. Inmates undergo mental health screening when they first arrive. They continue to receive mental health care, as needed, throughout their sentence, including transitional care to prepare them for their release to the community. Limited services and supports are in place for offenders with significant mental health needs while in the community (for example, on Parole) by registered professionals including nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists.

Mental health services are provided by qualified mental health professionals, and are based on an individual’s needs. In addition, CSC’s accredited Regional Treatment Centres provide 24-hour care for inmates with the most serious mental health conditions.

These elements are part of CSC’s mental health strategy that is supported by training and professional development, research, and tools to support front-line staff.


Under the law, CSC must provide every inmate with essential health care, and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care. Health care is provided in-line with professionally accepted standards. This contributes to the inmate’s rehabilitation and successful reintegration in the community.