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Opposition Justice Critic Tours HMP, Very Disturbed by Conditions, Calls for Urgent Replacement
PC Opposition Justice critic Helen Conway Ottenheimer was given a tour of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Thursday, August 15 and took advantage of the opportunity to get firsthand information on conditions at the facility.
Monday, August 19, 2019

Office of the Official Opposition 

For Immediate Release

 

St. John’s, NL (August 19, 2019) – PC Opposition Justice critic Helen Conway Ottenheimer was given a tour of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Thursday, August 15 and took advantage of the opportunity to get firsthand information on conditions at the facility.

Conway Ottenheimer – who has served as a criminal lawyer – said, “Arranging a tour and hearing directly from staff was important to me as Justice critic.  But frankly, what I saw and heard was very disturbing.  I want to thank the staff for taking considerable time to show me firsthand the physical conditions of virtually all parts of the facility and discuss the working and living conditions frankly and sincerely.  I was very impressed by the calibre and commitment of the staff members who spoke with me.  But I was deeply concerned that the government is not treating the need to replace the penitentiary with the urgency it requires.”

“The overwhelming reason why the facility must be urgently replaced is that it is not equipped to handle the programming needed for inmates with mental health and substance abuse challenges, which I understand is more than 70 per cent of the inmate population.  This is a real crisis, affecting not just the inmates, but all of us in society.  We need to be addressing the root causes of inmates’ problems so we prepare them to get on their feet once they’re released and not return to a life of crime.  Failing to deal properly with inmates’ core challenges puts everyone at greater risk, because it leaves these individuals more likely to reoffend in ways that jeopardize the safety of others.  It’s time for the government to treat this crisis with the urgency it requires and to stop dragging things out indefinitely.”

“The Marlene Jesso report on inmate fatalities found there was a great disconnect between the Health department and the Justice department when it came to mental health and substance abuse treatment.  In the wake of her report, the Health and Justice Ministers held a news conference to discuss the transfer of responsibility for such treatment to the Health department.  I will be calling on the Ministers to provide an update on that work, and urging them to include corrections staff in the transition process and ensure there is proper training for all those who work in corrections, because they are eager to access this training and engage in best practices.” https://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2019/just/0206n04.aspx

“The process the government has chosen to replace the facility is very long and drawn out.  I urge the Ministers to ensure the highly qualified, experienced people on the front lines at the penitentiary are fully engaged in this process so the new facility is properly designed to meet all the needs it will have to fulfill.  There won’t be an opportunity for a do-over if the government does not get this right.  But doing it right does not mean taking forever to get it done.”

 

Contacts:

Bradley Russell, Director of Policy and Research

(p) 1.709.729.3668

BradleyRussell@gov.nl.ca

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