December 8, 2008

Moving Towards the Light: Independent Review of Adult Corrections Released

Highlighting the significance of the report and outlining a plan to reform adult corrections in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Honourable Tom Marshall, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, today released the independent review of adult corrections in Newfoundland and Labrador. Decades of Darkness: Moving Towards the Light is a comprehensive review of the corrections system. The review contains 77 recommendations to help improve the living conditions and the availability of programming for inmates, along with the working conditions of correctional officers and others in the corrections system.

On April 18, 2008 the Department of Justice announced that an independent review of adult corrections in Newfoundland and Labrador would be led by Simmone Poirier with Gregory Brown. The consultants were provided terms of reference which included matters such as a review of management and organizational structure, labour relations, health services and programming, facilities and physical infrastructure. Dr. Terry Carlson, former Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, also joined the panel to focus on the perspective of inmates. The consultants presented their final report on October 1, 2008.

"I am pleased to accept in principle all 77 recommendations of the consultants, taking into consideration budgetary and collective bargaining processes. The report illustrates to us that corrections has had difficulties and may continue to face challenges but change is welcomed and attainable," said Minister Marshall. "Since receipt of the report, much work has been undertaken by the Department of Justice to review the recommendations and act upon those that could be implemented quickly."

"Some of the 77 recommendations which have been actioned are the installation of windows in the segregation unit of Her Majestyís Penitentiary, re-opening the gymnasium and intermittent unit, hiring a psychologist on contract for that facility, and instituting a weekly teleconference between institutional heads," said Minister Marshall. "Many of the recommendations deal with systemic issues that will take a longer period of time to address. It will be a significant task but through a collaborative effort we will face these challenges."

Dr. Carlson has agreed to lead the Department of Justice team assigned to implement the recommendations and both Ms. Poirier and Mr. Brown have offered their continued support. In addition, the Newfoundland and Labrador Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the John Howard Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Stella Burry Community Services, and Turnings have agreed to work with the department to address needs of the correctional facilities. Their involvement will include initiatives such as providing correctional officers with training for mental health issues and awareness, along with violence and addiction counselling for inmates.

"The support received from community groups has been extremely positive," said Minister Marshall. "With the guidance of Dr. Carlson and his many years of experience with inmates and the corrections system, I am confident we have engaged the best individuals and groups possible to accomplish our goal of improving the corrections system."

The consultants also recommended that correctional officers receive protective vests and that collapsible batons be issued to officers for use when escorting inmates to and from correctional facilities.

"While recently addressing the Correctional Officer Component Convention, many in attendance emphasized to me that protective vests and collapsible batons are a priority for them," said Minister Marshall. "I appreciate these concerns and believe this to be a life-safety issue which must be addressed in a timely fashion. A tender is being prepared and it is our plan that correctional officers will have this equipment by the end of the fiscal year."

Along with the review of adult corrections, Ms. Poirier and Mr. Brown also reviewed the search policies of the Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Centre located at Whitbourne. Many of the issues raised by the review, such as increased usage of the St. Johnís Detention Centre, have already been addressed. The department also accepts in principle the recommendations of the consultants with regards to this facility.

"As stated by the consultants, strip searches are very intrusive and this is particularly true with respect to youth offenders," said Minister Marshall. "We must ensure that such searches are kept to a minimum and, as recommended in the report, clear policy outlining how they are conducted must be in place and known to youth care counsellors. Not only must we be aware of issues surrounding gender and culture, but also of the unique challenges that young offenders in custody often face."

The Department of Justice will continue to assess the recommendations of these reports and implement any which can be done in a timely manner. Copies of the independent review of adult corrections and the review of search policies of the Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Centre can be found at www.justice.gov.nl.ca/CorrectionsReview_report.pdf.

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Media contact:

Ken Morrissey
Director of Communications
Department of Justice
709-729-6985, 685-6612


2008 12 08                                                     10:40 a.m.

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