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Court declares self-abusing female prisoner is not a dangerous offender

SASKATOON - A self-abusing woman who racked up 17 assault charges for attacks on guards and medical staff at Saskatoon's Regional Psychiatric Centre won't be declared a dangerous offender.

Judge Sheila Whalen sentenced Marlene Carter to six years in custody on Thursday, crediting her with four years already served in remand.

Officials with the Elizabeth Fry Society, a prisoner advocacy group, say Carter is severely mentally ill and needs to be moved to a more appropriate facility.

They say there are parallels to the case of Ashley Smith, the emotionally disturbed teenager who choked herself to death at a prison in Kingston, Ont., while her guards followed an order to stay out of her cell while she was still breathing.

Court was told that Carter, 43, spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement strapped to a bed at the RPC.

Guards observed Carter bang her head repeatedly against the walls of her cell, sometimes up to 150 time in just a couple of minutes.

The charges against her were for incidents such as beating an officer with handcuffs, throwing hot water at a nurse and uttering threats during altercations with guards, nurses and doctors at RPC.

Defence lawyer James Scott said his client needs to be moved somewhere such as the St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre in Brockville, Ont.

“It’s out of my hands at this point," he said outside court Thursday. "It will be up to Correctional Services of Canada. Myself and others will be monitoring the situation to make sure she gets the treatment she needs.”

Sue Delanoy, executive director with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan, is relieved to hear Carter won’t be held indefinitely, which could have been the case if she was found a dangerous offender.

“We hope Marlene spends time in a mental health facility that recognizes her mental health status and that can support her in a non-custodial incarcerated environment," Delanoy said. "So if there is an assault, she isn’t charged with something."

Delanoy said there are a lot of people watching this case closely, noting that an inquest into Smith's death resulted in 104 recommendations on dealing with self-harming, mentally ill women in federal prisons.

“Advocates from all across the country are on top of this as well as our national director," said Delanoy. "We're advocating for Marlene to move to a place with space. I believe Brockville has been mentioned and I think Brockville would welcome Marlene at this point and we would like to see that happen."


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