Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) president Jerry Earle said the union is keeping a close eye on the temporary relocation of female inmates from the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville to Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP).
The Justice Department has announced it is moving 14 women to the Pen because of the increase in female prisoners and overcrowding in Clarenville.
“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,” Earle said in an news release. “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. To their credit, the Department of Justice and Public Safety has been open and forthright with us and our members regarding this situation.”
Earle said the 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,” he said.
Earle said HMP is crumbling down around workers at the facility and the inmates.
“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 more than 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 also said that increased drug use in the province, particularly of the prescription drugs, in addition to constraints on results to adequately deal with mental health issues, is pushing these social problems on the justice system.
“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.,” he said.
“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.”