Construction of a new courthouse is underway in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and upgrades to the correctional facility will start soon.
Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons told SaltWire Network the changes are sorely needed, and he hopes they can ease the overcrowding issues at both facilities.
Parsons said the new courthouse will have larger courtrooms, more office space, larger holding cells and more space for the different users of the courthouse, such as Victims Services and Legal Aid.
The courthouse in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the second busiest in the province, and overcrowding has been a concern for years. Issues with the safety of the interview room, lack of office space and small courtrooms have been cited as issues.
“Having been there on a number of occasions, anyone with experience in a courtroom setting would just walk in and say, ‘Yup, this is not adequate,’” Parsons said. “I think all these issues that we had that have been identified have been addressed fairly successfully.”
Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper said he has heard concerns about safe space in the building before, and he is pleased the new building will help with that.
“There’s the awkwardness of accused and defendants having to sit near each other, walk by each other. That’s why the design of this is such a great solution,” he said. “I’m really pleased with this.”
The request for proposals for the building went out last year, and it’s under construction on Kelland Drive. Trimper said the plan is to have it completed by late summer 2021.
Tender out on correctional centre upgrades
The province announced $1 million in upgrades to the Labrador Corrections Centre in the budget and put out the tender on the project on July 24, with a closing date of Aug. 10.
Trimper said the work being done will increase services at the facility and allow for the potential for women to be housed there. Currently, a woman being held in custody has to be transferred from Labrador to a facility on the island.
“We want to see what can be done rather than having female inmates having to go to the island for incarceration,” Trimper said. “We’re looking for a way to keep them closer to their families.”
Parsons said there are several issues with having to send women to the island instead of housing them in Labrador. He says there have been concerns about having women and men in the same facility, but all safety precautions will be taken.
The cost of having to transport women back and forth between the island and Labrador is another issue they hope to lessen, Parsons said. Each trip requires sheriffs to travel with the prisoners, and flying to Labrador can be expensive.
“Cost, access to services, access to family, there’s a lot of issues with flying female inmates to the island from Labrador,” he said. “A lot of the time they aren’t longtime stays, so this, I think, will be a positive. As positive as you can be when talking about increasing capacity this way.”
The upgrades to the facility will see an addition of 18 double-bunk cells, increased programming and kitchen space, and some upgrades to fire suppression and medical services. The work is expected to be completed in 2021 or 2022.
Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for SaltWire Network