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Justice (25-42)

Death of Tyrone Blind triggers concerns over mental health support in prisons

October 19, 2023

By Danielle Paradis | Chris Stewart

APTN News: The family of Tyrone Blind, a man who died by suicide in a federal prison in Edmonton, says more needs to be done to provide mental health services in Canada’s penitentiaries.

Blind, 31, a First Nations man from Saskatchewan, died in the Edmonton Institution on Feb. 1, 2018, according to the Correctional Service of Canada. His sister, Sherisse Blind, spoke to APTN about his life and how she wanted to see more resources for people like her brother. “My brother was a good uncle,” she said. “He wanted to be treated like a human being.”

According to the inquiry, Blind was returned to prison on Dec. 18, 2017, following a parole violation. His sister said he had been staying at his mom’s house and hoped to spend Christmas with his family.

At the time of his death, Tyrone was serving a sentence of four years and nine months on several charges including assault causing bodily harm and armed robbery. As a part of the intake process in December 2017 the inquiry revealed that a nurse noted Tyrone’s previous suicide attempt while at a halfway house a month and half earlier.

A few weeks later, Tyrone submitted a request indicating he was feeling suicidal due to a gastrointestinal problem. In response, a psychiatrist adjusted his medication and he was moved into what is called a “structured intervention unit,” the Correctional Service of Canada’s new version of being locked in isolation.

Tyrone was released the following day.

According to the inquiry’s findings, “a coordinated effort” to put a team together to discuss Blind’s issues didn’t take place.

“The management of the pre-incident indicators, precipitating events, contributing risk factors and the security intelligence information pertinent to [Mr. Blind’s] risk for suicide and management thereof was, at best, fractured,” said the report. “[His] Aboriginal Social History was documented within his most recent Assessment for Decision report and considered; however, culturally appropriate alternatives and/or restorative options to placement at EI [Edmonton Institution] were not documented as having been considered.”

The report also found that despite his noted mental distress, “a mental health management plan was not in place at the time of [his] death.” The inquiry added that Blind was on a waitlist to see a gastroenterologist specialist about his issues.

According to his sister, Tyrone had been acting differently in their conversations. “I knew something was wrong the day he was asking about things he didn’t normally ask about,” said Sherise.

Sherise is referring to a fight she and her brother had back in 2007. Her brother had cut her face with a knife. The case went to court and Sherise had refused to testify against her brother in Kamloops, B.C. Her brother asked if she forgave him.

On the day he died, a correctional officer noticed a towel covering Tyrone’s cell window. At the fatality inquiry, the officer said they had tapped on his window and Tyrone had responded but there was no independent confirmation of the event.

Inmates later discovered him dead in his cell. “My uncle was like my big brother he was always pushing us to be the best we could and encouraging us to stand up for himself,” said Alera Blind.

Like her Aunt Sherise, Alera also feels that her uncle was failed by the correctional institution. “My uncle was a victim of systemic racism,” she said. “I feel that there was discrimination and they just didn’t take [his mental health issues] seriously…because he was a native man and had tattoos.”

Alera said she would like to see more resources dedicated to mental health in prisons so that other families do not have to suffer a loss like hers did.

Gina Levasseur, who is a community wellness coordinator with the Otipemisiwak Métis government, told APTN that situations like Tyrone’s are not uncommon in prison. Levasseur said she’d like to see a third-party organization “a citizen’s rep who is the voice of the inmates who hold correctional services accountable” to help prioritize inmate wellbeing.

The inquiry made several recommendations including the need for federal and provincial authorities to better share information about an inmate when they are transferred between jurisdictions – and that a mental health team be assembled soon after an inmate is identified as being at risk. According to the inquiry, some changes have been made already.

“The fatality report indicates that steps have been taken to prevent a suicide attempt in the future, such as not allowing views into cells to be obstructed, and eliminating points of suspension to prevent suicide attempts,” said the inquiry.

Correctional Services Canada responded to the recommendations in a public letter that said “Health services management at the regional and site level will meet to ensure appropriate actions have been taken in response to the recommendations.”

CSC also rejected one of the recommendations for a monitoring system that would track inmates who opt out of recreational time, saying “adding an additional monitoring function to policy is not deemed necessary as sufficient and effective monitoring mechanisms (i.e. counts, security patrols and dynamic security) already exist within CSC’s current policies.


Danielle Paradis,