Father worried ill son won’t fare well in prison

Published on November 18, 2011
Jason Earle was sentenced to three months in prison after escaping custody in 2011. Now, the 23-year-old is facing charges after an armed standoff. — 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.

arobinson@thetelegram.com

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