Temporary relocation of female inmates shows challenges in Newfoundland and Labrador's justice system

"This is not simply about inmates in a correctional facility or the people that work there — it is about the type of province we want to live in, the type of province we want to leave to our children.” — Jerry Earle, NAPE President

St. John's (03 March 2016) — Jerry Earle, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE), is responding to the temporary relocation of female inmates from the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville. The inmates are being moved to Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) due to a sharp increase in numbers at the women’s facility.

NAPE/NUPGE monitoring move of inmates and impact on correctional workers

“At this stage, strictly from an operational point of view, we do not have any major concerns with the arrangements that are currently being made to accommodate female prisoners at HMP due to the overcrowding at the facility in Clarenville,” said Earle. “The correctional officers who operate the facility are of the highest quality and I know they can manage the task that has been handed to them.”

“We will monitor the situation going forward, particularly as it relates to safety of our members, all inmates, and the general public. We will also be keeping a careful eye on any strain this may cause on an already thin level of staffing,” continued Earle. “To their credit, the Department of Justice and Public Safety has been open and forthright with us and our members regarding this situation. Union representatives met with Department officials this morning to discuss the plan and address concerns.”

Move highlights ongoing problems in justice and corrections

According to Earle, outside of the operational side of things, this situation raises several red flags regarding the province’s correctional and justice system.

“Firstly, in a time where government is looking to Departments to cut 30 per cent of their budgets, it is very clear that this is a non-starter in many areas — in this case, Corrections. An already strained and stressed system simply cannot function properly with fewer resources than it currently has.”

“Secondly, for over 30 years, our members, who put their safety at risk every day, have been promised a new correctional facility. The people of this province have been given the same promise. HMP is crumbling down around our members at the facility and the inmates they care for. It is certainly not fit as an environment for rehabilitation,” said Earle.

“Now we are in a situation where we are adding a new inmate population into this archaic facility while rushing renovations to do so. I should also note that this is the first time in over 30 years that female inmates will be housed at HMP. This situation clearly shines a light on the need for a new facility — sooner rather than later," he said.

Must tackle root causes of crime — poverty, addiction, mental illness 

“Thirdly, increased drug use, particularly of the prescription variety, in addition to our province’s lack of resources to adequately deal with mental health issues has unfortunately led to an increased strain and reliance on our justice and correctional systems. We need to all take a step back from the mechanics of simply moving people around the board and look at the root causes of what is causing the increased demands on our correctional and justice systems — poverty, mental illness, drug addiction, etc.," said Earle. 

"Not only must we look at them, we must take concrete measures to tackle them head on. This is not simply about inmates in a correctional facility or the people that work there — it is about the type of province we want to live in, the type of province we want to leave to our children.”

NUPGE 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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