HMP going coed

James McLeod
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Overflow from women’s prison to be moved to St. John’s

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons says women will be housed at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary due to an extremely unusual and unexplained spike in the number of female inmates.

James McLeod/The Telegram
Superintendent of prisons Owen Brophy spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon, alongside Justice Minister Andrew Parsons. Brophy said Tuesday that when women are temporarily housed at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in the coming weeks, they will be kept totally separate from male prisoners. Critics are skeptical, and say that the current scheme is a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t address the serious issues of overcrowding.

But critics of the plan say the government is not addressing the root causes of crime, and may put women in danger.

Tuesday afternoon Parsons announced the government is moving to put some female inmates at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) because of overcrowding at the Clarenville Correctional Centre, the only women’s prison in the province.

Some minor renovations are being done to the intermittent unit at HMP, and up to 14 women will be moved there within a week or two.

Owen Brophy, superintendent of prisons, said that protocols are being put in place so that there will be absolutely no contact between the female inmates and the men

Both Brophy and Parsons said this arrangement will only be short-term, but how long it will last is a bit fuzzy.

“Obviously this is a short-term measure in terms of what we’re going to go and do right now,” Parsons said. “This was the best of the options that presented itself based on the fact that we’ve got a place out there that’s full and it’s a danger to our inmates and staff.”

What the government will do if the number of female inmates doesn’t drop off in the next couple months wasn’t entirely clear, when Parsons spoke to reporters late Tuesday afternoon.

He said he wasn’t sure how much this will cost, just that the costs are unavoidable.

As for the men who would normally serve weekend sentences at the intermittent unit, Brophy said that if they don’t have temporary absences (TA) approved, they will be housed elsewhere in the prison.

“Nothing will change. Every weekend an assessment will still be done on the intermittent inmates,” he said. “Anyone that’s approved for a TA will get a TA. Anyone that’s not approved will be housed either at HMP or another facility.”

Jenny Wright, executive director for the St. John’s Status of Women Council said she had concerns that the situation will be safe for the women who will be moved to HMP.

She said there have been security concerns at the prison in recent years, and guards have talked about how the facility is old and unsafe to work in.

“We’re clear that HMP is unsafe,” she said. “What really concerns me about this is that we have known that HMP has been unsafe working conditions for staff and unsafe for prisoners, and we have known that there has been overcrowding at Clarenville for women for some time.”

Moreover, Wright said that the overcrowding just deals with the symptoms of a broken criminal justice system

New Democrat MHA Gerry Rogers shared that concern, saying more focus should be put on keeping women and men out of prison.

“I think moving a few women to HMP is not going to solve the problem,” Rogers said. “We have a huge problem happening that has been building, and it’s not brand new, it’s not all of a sudden.”

She pointed out that many women are in prison because of inadequate bail services, and because of a lack of drug treatment.

“The lockups are all bursting at the seams, all the prisons are bursting at the seams, a lot of people are on remand,” Rogers said. “A lot of people are in because of drug-related crimes; they’re not getting treatment inside.”

Organizations: Clarenville Correctional Centre, Women Council

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Recent comments

  • Doris
    March 02, 2016 - 13:50

    Sorry there Rob and Donna you didn't like my comment but what do you want to hear,oh well that's a shame.Maybe us people who really work very hard for a living to have what we have today are tired of our homes being robbed or our stores being held up by people who blame everyone else for their drug hadit or their up bringing,but guess what do something productive in your life find a job,get help for your problem why should we the victims always the ones who have to pay,good thing it's Nl because you wouldn't get away with half the crap that's going on out there anywhere else,I say let them sleep on top of each other if they have to.And another thing I raised my children it was hard to keep after them constantly but I did it they went on to school then went on to work,so really they are the ones who choose to live the life they want

    • Donna J.
      March 02, 2016 - 15:07

      So, if your children didn't grow up to be ignorant, self-righteous, pompous simple minded trolls, why would the children of prisoners grow up to be thugs? Let me guess, you're a Christian too.

  • Rob
    March 02, 2016 - 13:19

    yep, about right, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars(or more) to house petty criminals while we're drowning in debt. Maybe it's about time we spent our money more wisely & try to prevent people from falling through the cracks & ending up drug addicts on the wrong path in life. We may even save ourselves some money but no we'll spend a small fortune to indulge red-necks in their hate & ignorance like commenter Doris. You know the type, they scream things like "I love my Muffy the dog as much as I do my kids" type people.

  • Mike
    March 02, 2016 - 10:02

    Well Jenny and Gerry, they are criminals!

  • Doris
    March 02, 2016 - 09:15

    That's all we need now is baby thugs running around.

    • Donna J.
      March 02, 2016 - 10:11

      So, if women in prison have "thugs" for babies, does that mean that your offspring are ignorant, self-righteous, pompous trolls?

  • justin case
    March 02, 2016 - 07:07

    It just confirms our sentences for crimes committed are too lenient. The justice system is a mockery and criminals don't care as a result. There is no deterrent, consequently you can expect over crowding and continued increase in crime. The only ones who really suffer here are the victims. Make the sentences harsh enough and society will note a decrease in crime, across the board. Who wants to spend a minimum 25 yrs in jail for armed robbery or a B & E? And I don't care if they blame it on drug abuse, the crutch "it wasn't my fault, it was the drugs" doesn't fly anymore

    • point in case
      March 02, 2016 - 13:57

      maybe you should read up & adjust your attitude, the Americans did exactly as you are suggesting & it's a dismal failure. It did nothing to stem crime, actually it increased & now thousands are being set free. Incarceration cost millions & an industry was set up around petty crime with judges accepting kick-backs for as many as they could sentence & are now facing charges. Do your homework & use your Google to educate yourself. BTW, all the stolen goods taken by those you want to lock up, who do you think buys that stuff? Welfare recipients that don't have enough to buy food or people like you that can't resist a good deal? Where do you think they get their drugs, people like you that get a script & sell them at greatly inflated costs to druggies is where, they aren't all robbing drug stores. They commit the crime but it's people like you that reap the benefits. But nobody wants to talk about that.

  • Bob
    March 01, 2016 - 21:53

    This could put the men in danger!