The legislation that governs prisons is woefully out of date, but is seen as a less-urgent issue
The substandard conditions in the province's prisons are well known, but one of the clearest signs of neglect in the correctional system is in black and white and on paper.
In the Decades of Darkness prison report published a year ago this week, five of the 77 recommendations aim at updating the dated legislation governing corrections.
Two legislative sessions later, the province has yet to make any changes to the act, but the Department of Justice said it is working on it.
"This process will ensure that consideration is given to recommendations such as those which modernize terminology to reflect a more rehabilitative approach," the Department of Justice said. "This comprehensive review will take some time as various policy options are analyzed and a new act is drafted."
Perhaps the most pressing argument for legislative reform is that the current act contains no specific inmate rights.
That doesn't just mean the act fails to spell out specific rights for prisoners - it fails to acknowledge that prisoners have any rights at all.
"To me it's also a human rights issue," said NDP Leader Lorraine Michael. "I think that people forget that people who are incarcerated still have rights; they didn't give up their rights because they broke a law. Even if they are repeat offenders, they still don't give up their rights, and I think it's important for legislation to reflect that."
Within the Prison Regulations - a document under the prisons act - there is a reference to the rights of prisoners, but it only deals with written correspondence.
According to Decades of Darkness, "there is no reference of the following in those regulations: a grievance process for inmates; search and seizure of contraband; use of force, etc."
Moreover it "does not reference rights such as religious freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor is there any reference to aboriginal offenders."
The issue of prisoner rights is especially serious in the realm of segregation - more commonly known as solitary confinement, or for prisoners, simply "the hole."
"Segregation is - well it's not supposed to be a palace or anything down there, I imagine - but the cells are not cleaned regularly," said Albert Power, a longtime inmate who has spent time at various provincial and federal facilities, including HMP.
"There's a lot of silverfish down there, and sometimes bugs, and the thing with that is, the thing is so crowded that cells down in segregation are for one person, and sometimes there's three."
A Department of Justice spokesman confirmed that with only five segregation cells, security issues sometimes require them to house inmates three to a cell.
In such a situation, one man sleeps on a cot, and two sleep on mattresses on the floor.
While it's easy to dismiss legislative reform as pure semantics, as noted in Decades of Darkness, the law is noticeably outdated.
For example, the only correctional facility specifically mentioned in the Prisons Act is the Salmonier Correctional Institute.
That minimum-security prison closed in 2004.
Liberal justice critic Kelvin Parsons said that while updating the legislation is not the gravest concern raised in the report, it's one that should have been done quickly.
"Really, in terms of the overall report, (legislative reform) is pretty minor stuff," he said.
"That should be one that's fairly straightforward."
Michael said that simply by reworking the overall tone of the document, the result can be far-reaching.
"I think it is important for that document to be changed, and that document be changed sooner than later," she said.
"Because the wording, what's in legislation, can very often shape people's mentality and attitude."
Decades of Darkness echoes that thought, pointing out that the Prisons Act still contains the term "jailer."