Father worried ill son won’t fare well in prison

Andrew Robinson
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Jason Earle — File photo

William Earle is worried about the safety and well-being of his 18-year-old son, Jason Daniel Earle, at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) in St. John’s, and he’s not convinced the Department of Justice shares those concerns.

“All I’m looking for is someone to look at this kid and try to find the appropriate people to put him in the right place and get him the help that he needs,” William Earle said.

“If they think it’s incarceration for somebody who is ill, that’s not the right answer. The answer is medicate him.”

Earle is uncertain whether his son is taking his medication. He said his son has been diagnosed as manic depressive and takes anti-psychotic medication.

He said he knows his son, who escaped the custody of Department of Justice officials on Oct. 29 and was not apprehended until Nov. 7, is not coping well inside the penitentiary.

It was made apparent this week in an incident that sent Jason Earle to “the hole.”

Speaking with his son by phone Thursday afternoon, William learned Jason had been placed in the hole after refusing to move to a unit in the penitentiary that allegedly housed Philip Pynn.

Pynn is one of two men charged with the second-degree murder of Nicholas Winsor, 20. Lyndon Butler is also accused. William said his son was friends with Winsor.

“What person in their right f--king mind would put a small sick kid, a very petite little boy, in this situation?” William asked. “I don’t understand. The kid was in fear.”

William described his son as likely the youngest and smallest inmate at HMP. He said Jason was shaking for the duration of his stay in the hole.

While speaking to The Telegram, William made reference to the case of Austin Aylward Jr., who died while in custody at HMP of cardiac arrest. He had a seizure in his cell during the incident and was restrained by four guards.

At the time of his death, Austin Jr.’s parents told The Telegram their son, who had a long history of mental illness, should have been placed at the Waterford Hospital, where professionals could have responded in a different manner.

Following his death, retired Justice Robert Wells made recommendations in a report on how the legal system deals with people who are mentally ill.

Wells recommended that when a person accused of a serious crime has a mental health disorder, the court should be informed by the Crown or a defence lawyer. He also recommended the creation of a psychiatric wing or unit if a new penitentiary is built.

Earlier this year, Justice Minister Felix Collins ordered a peer review of the work done by HMP psychiatrist Dr. David Craig. The government had earlier rejected the findings of a report prepared by citizen’s representative Barry Fleming about psychiatric care at HMP.

Fleming found some inmates had their prescribed medications reduced, and suggested they be allowed to seek second opinions.

In his last courtroom appearance on Nov. 8, Jason Earle had a psychiatric assessment over the lunch hour and was deemed fit to stand trial. William Earle does not believe the assessment was adequate.

“How could you do a psychiatric assessment in one hour? It’s absolutely impossible.”

William said his son has been visiting psychologists since the age of seven and is illiterate. An attempt by William to bring his son sandals to use in the shower was denied because Jason had not been able to make a written request for them.

“He needs all the special care he can get,” said his father, who has been in touch with the minister’s office.

 “If anything happens to my kid, there’s going to be one God damn big liability suit.”

Jason Earle is due back in court on Nov. 22 for a bail hearing.

A spokeswoman for the justice minister said the department cannot comment on an inmate’s medical treatment. She added internal placements are carefully considered and based on the best interests and safety of the inmate, other inmates and the facility in general.


Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Department of Justice, Waterford Hospital

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Recent comments

  • JohnnySpurrell
    December 01, 2011 - 16:10

    What a coward he must be if he cant make it in HMP....That place is a joke to do time in......

  • anyidiot
    November 25, 2011 - 15:44

    "People are sent to jail AS punishment, not FOR punishment." ....very powerful comment. Good luck and God bless to young Earl and everyone forced to endure the horror known as HMP. NO ONE deserves to be subjected to those deplorable conditions.

  • Lisa
    November 22, 2011 - 00:59

    Everytime I read an article on someone committing crimes, they have an illness of some sort, on drugs, and had a hard life. That is their EXCUSE and they stick to it. Do you know many people who had a perfect childhood? Imagine if all who didn't were out committing crimes...POLICE, there would not be enough of them! What gives these criminals the right to invade peoples privacy, steal others belongings???? Laziness, looking for the easy way out......They don't work ,so whatever they want, they have the atitude to get it from the people who . If Jason didn't commit the crimes , he wouldn't be where Pynn and the rest are...he is where he belongs. FEAR, what about the fear and anxiety he causes other....He doesn't care about that.... I would say Grow Up, but when you do that, it means you have to take responsibility for your actions! When life throws you scraps.....make quilts!

  • James Fry
    November 21, 2011 - 14:53

    Mental illness is all in the head: eating disorders are just a lack of willpower; ADD is just children being children and, for older people, lack of discipline; depression is caused by the absence of life experience that teaches one to appreciate what they have coupled with a lack of initiative to find hobbies or things to do. Too much blame is put on mental illness and it's only the weak that use it as an excuse for their actions. Time to grow up and realize the world doesn't revolve around you.

  • stephen c
    November 19, 2011 - 18:34

    That has got to be the most stupid and ignorant comment I have ever read on a subject such as this one and you should be damn ashamed of saying it! I'm sure your whole family is perfect ! Well they must be if you can in good conscience say something like that . As far as im concerned you should be ashamed to look another human being in the face. Maybe your the one who should "Grow up" and get a life. Mental illness is not something that has a set way of being dealt with . Many families just dont know what to do. Every body is different and has the right to fair treatment and support. but sadly this province has a shitty record for helping people especially in the justice system . People like you with your hurtful and ignorant comments tend to make things worse . Once again lisalou you should be ashamed of yourself for expressing such ignorance to the public ! Ps. Mental illness also should not be used as as an excuse to commit crime but it also cannot be ignored. the young man should pay for his crime but his illness should not be ignored and he should recieve the proper treatment.

  • Mr.Mom
    November 19, 2011 - 10:45

    @Tammy Taylor - You are right, there are too many people to cast judgement without knowing the facts. I remember you as a young girl living near my sister and you were nothing but the sweetest person I have ever met at that time. I'm sure the person you were then is the person you are now and as a child, your son was given the same care and affection from you. I hope only the best for you and your son. Most of the comments here come from people with the ideal lifestyle (yeah...whatever) Pay no attention to the negativity and keep a positive attitude. Keep in touch with your son and tell him a million times over how much you love him (I'm sure you always do) and tell him that he is a good person and that this is just a bump in the road for him. In time, with the right help, he will eventually rise above this and be a more productive citizen.

  • Hunter
    November 18, 2011 - 15:17

    I don't imagine there is one inmate down at HMP who could be classified as not having some form of mental health issue. Back in the mid-1980's I was very good friends with a correctional officer (Today he is retired and living on the mainland). But back then, he'd comment about occasionally having Waterford Patients housed at HMP - This, because their violent behaviors frequently put Health Care Workers at risk. I don't know if that's done today. The Waterford Hospital is not set-up as a "Secure Facility". An offender who bolts from Police custody is hardly the one to be sent to the Waterford. Obviously, the "System" is lacking something. Maybe this new hospital the government plans as a replacement for "The Waterford" should have a Prison Wing.

  • Tammy Taylor
    November 18, 2011 - 14:28

    please listen to me now ,I have asked for help since he was 7 years old . The school system the janeway child youth and family services. the child youth advocate office, aspen oak's . also he was under the community mental health program at the janeway.I feel each and every dep let my family down in may ways example you have to be under social services in order to be helped .in getting extra supports around reading and writing and if they didnt like you well you didn't have a chance in hell > i remember there were 20 people sitting around a board room table at the TD building i sat there and i listened to what all off these so called educated people where saying...about my son. i am so sad to see how he fell through the so called cracks in the system and i would say today theirs children out there going down the same path with no help from the system from every level.. please god look out for my son....we all should stop and think, you know we all dont live in glass houses. Its my house today and it could be your house tommorrow, so dont be so quick to judge me and my family. we all have children just remember that

    • Matthew Rose
      November 19, 2011 - 07:06

      When were yoiu ever a mom to him ? Jason couldn't even read . What kind of mother and father are media hawks, and try to pass the buck onto everyone else, but never ever take any responsibility for themselves ? Jason is fine without you two, leave him alone, he is a man now.

  • Harry
    November 18, 2011 - 13:30

    There is no such things a bad child, just bad parents. Kids are products of their environment. I pity the child in this case, so sad.

  • lisalou
    November 18, 2011 - 12:11

    Well Mr.Earle.Here you go again with that mouth of yours.I guess you're looking for money again??? Poor Little Jason(Billy) needs help.Why didn't You get help for him when you say he has been dealing with sickness since he was 8 years old,Why wait till now??Ya because He isn't a little boy anymore He's a man and let him be one But than again a real man wouldn't be out robbing,he would be working.Get a life Mr.Earle and let your son be one. As they say..If you can do the crime..You should beable to do the time... Grow up.. You need to get a life yourself Mr.Earle and get of TV..

  • Flingo
    November 18, 2011 - 11:16

    Justin D: The standard for fit to stand trial is very low. "Do you know what a judge does? Do you know what a prosecutor does? Do you know what your lawyer does?" That's the reason most of these assessments can be done over the lunch hour. Someone in a full-blown schizophrenic episode can (and has) been found to be fit and returned to court for a bail hearing. (In one particular case, then told the judge he was Jesus Christ returned to earth.)

  • L
    November 18, 2011 - 10:21

    I agree with Mike....I have been diagnosed with depression about 10 years ago...I work a full time job and I am raising my 2 children by myself...You don't see me out causing trouble and committing crimes....If you are big enough to do the crime...then you're damn well big enough to serve the time...now good riddance

  • Mr.Mom
    November 18, 2011 - 10:12

    @LYLY- Couldn't have said it better myself.@Justin D - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree ? Is there anywhere in this story that states Mr.Earle has a mental illness or spent time in jail ? All I see is a parent worried and concerned of his son's well-being, sometimes when you are trying to explain something to the higher officials and they don't seem to be listening, yes, it gets frustrating and you say things you don't really mean. And professionals, even they make mistakes. Another thing, Mike said "you do the crime"...you filled in the rest, it's not "Decleared", it's "DECLARED" and I'll give you another saying...."Don't judge someone until you walked a mile in his or her shoes."

  • Darren
    November 18, 2011 - 10:06

    well if he was friends with Winsor then he should be friends with Pynn. What is afraid of? Anybody associated with Winsor is a borderline criminal, speaks a lot to Mr. Earle's view on life.

  • well
    November 18, 2011 - 09:35

    mike, I got to agree with you on this . Im so fedup about hearing how sick all these inmates are , but never too sick to do the crime. Now if Mr.Earle dont want to take his meds ,hes not as bad as he lets on to be, or maybe if he dont take his meds and does the crime he wont be convected.I dont say what the crime is ,and i really dont care,he fled from from police on a transfer to that should be another charge, but i bet it wont be. Maybe its time for dear dad and his son to come to grips not taking your meds is not an excuse for comitting a crime.Hes 18 dad ,no longer your little boy , Time to start paying the piper

  • tally
    November 18, 2011 - 09:29

    what was his original conviction for?

  • justin d
    November 18, 2011 - 09:17

    After reading the comments his father made I see the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. It's quite easy to get your point across without cursing. The doctors decleared him fit to stand trail (they're the professionals, not you Mr. Earle). As Mike said....you do the crime, you do the time!

    • tula
      November 18, 2011 - 10:21

      Justin you obviously have no clue regarding mental illness nor the conditions at HMP! How can you pass judgement so quickly?

    • Flingo
      November 18, 2011 - 12:28

      Justin D: The standard for fit to stand trial is very low. "Do you know what a judge does? Do you know what a prosecutor does? Do you know what your lawyer does?" That's the reason most of these assessments can be done over the lunch hour. Someone in a full-blown schizophrenic episode can (and has) been found to be fit and returned to court for a bail hearing. (In one particular case, then told the judge he was Jesus Christ returned to earth.)

  • Flingo
    November 18, 2011 - 08:55

    Mike: Yes, I agree. Except when someone's real problem is one or more mental health issues, as with Jason Earle. HMP is no place for anyone like that, even when medicated. (Assuming Dr. Craig doesn't cut off the meds.) William Earle has been a strong advocate for his son for years, trying to get the boy the help he so badly needs. The system has failed, as it always does with these difficult cases.

  • Bridget Ryan
    November 18, 2011 - 08:55

    Mike, I envy you your very rare position which enables you to be judgemental. This young man, for a variety of reasons, finds himself at the mercy of our system which seems incapable of caring for vulnerable people whether because of lack of resources or because of an attitude which lends itself to flawed priorization. I am quite sure that, if given the choice, he would change places with you any day. Let's see how he got here. . . Was he given the proper services when he was very young, or was he perhaps placed on the infamous looong waiting list that so many of our children with issues are placed on? And when/if proper treatment was not given at the younger level and he found himself in the system . . . Were the recommendations of the Inkpen Report followed in his case? Remember the Inkpen Report from back in the 1990's re the Whitbourne Detention Centre and young offenders? Were Clyde Wells' recommendations re the treatment of our offenders with mental issues followed here? Did Mr. Wells recommend that a vulnerable mentally ill person be placed with a violent criminal and if he refused be placed in the hole? This young man is perhaps indeed culpable, but he does not have a monoply on the culpability - it must be shared among those who can do something about it and don't. Now, back to the Inkpen Report . . . Any answers?

    • Mike
      November 18, 2011 - 11:13

      To Bridget Ryan. The Telegram likely won't post what I would like to say. So, to you and the others that disagree with me, I say mental illness does not give you a free pass. Sure this guy may need treatment, but he still needs to pay for his crimes, mental illness or not.

  • lyly
    November 18, 2011 - 08:49

    Stories like these just break my heart and make me angry all at once ! When it comes to mental illness, the "justice" system is stuck in the dark ages. Anybody who has a loved one dealing with a mental illness such as Bipolar will tell you that their behavior becomes completely out of character. Some people have a hard time believing or accepting that an illness can change one's personality and behavior but it does! I have witnessed it myself and believe me when I tell you that treatment is the only option. Does not mean that people should get away with murder but let's treat them first, let's help them get back in their right mind and then and only then should we talk about degrees of responsibility. Responsibility for their actions, for getting well, for participating in programs that will help them stay well (because keep in mind that stopping medication is often part of the illness so support is needed all the way). There is no room for judgement here. It is time, more than time to fully understand the repercussions of mental illnesses. The information is out there for everybody to access. So NO excuses. Mr Earle. You are not alone.

  • Sad
    November 18, 2011 - 08:41

    I am truly sorry for your son's circumstances, but instead of shooting off your big mouth and blaming everyone else, why didn't / don't you take more responsibility for your own son if he is mentally challenged. He obviously needed help long before this.

  • Mike
    November 18, 2011 - 07:50

    You do the crime ....

    • Joe
      November 18, 2011 - 08:37

      Real intelligent comment are you stupid,don't you realize that everything is not always black and white oh no that's right you are dumb cause you made a dumb comment .

  • neighbour
    November 18, 2011 - 07:04

    Hey William give it a rest. If your son wants to run with the hounds he can't piss like a puppy. Give him the same treatment as everyone else. Cheers