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UPDATE: Report into circumstances surrounding NL prison deaths released

RNC Supt. Marlene Jesso.
Retired RNC Supt. Marlene Jesso. - Keith Gosse
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Many of the issues outlined in the report released today, “Newfoundland and Labrador Corrections and Community Services: Deaths in Custody Review,” have been highlighted in previous reports and inquiries over the years in the province.

The issues include the need to modernize legislation, move to a better security model, construct new or improve upon facilities — such as building new provincial prison to replace Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, expand programs, and improve communication and information sharing. 

The current review and report, completed by retired RNC Supt. Marlene Jesso, makes 17 recommendations to the provincial government to improve the delivery of services and practices within adult custody in the province. 

The review was commissioned following four deaths — Douglas Neary, Skye Martin, Samantha Piercey and Christopher Sutton — at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary and the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women between Aug. 31, 2017 and June 30, 2018. 

In the report Jesso writes: “The current system cannot adequately address mental health and addictions issues. Due to the extraordinary number of daily challenges and systemic problems that exist, the services and programming available are focussed on addressing immediate or crisis issues. This prevents Adult Custody from keeping pace with best practices in modern corrections and takes the focus away from the overall wellbeing of inmates. There is a disconnect between the various mental health services available to an individual before, during and after incarceration. Offenders may be released without having participated in programs and services that are necessary for safe rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”

Some of the recommendations include:

• Developing alternative options to incarceration such as electronic monitoring, supervised bail verification, community-based supervised housing, and increased community supervised programs.

• Replace Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s with a modern facility with dedicated space to address mental health housing and programming needs.

• Institutional counts occur at least hourly.

• Implement a comprehensive mental health strategy, and space made available for a mental health unit staffed with mental health professionals and correctional officers with enhanced mental health training.

• The report also recommends that appropriate members of the medical community be tasked with reviewing whether the treatment provided to Neary, Martin, Piercey and Sutton while in custody was in accordance with medical standards. 

“Ensuring we have a safe and healthy living and work environment in our correctional facilities is a top priority,” Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said today. “We acknowledge there is much work to do and a lot of important work ongoing to address many of the issues identified in this report.”

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(Earlier story)

Government to discuss independent review of inmate deaths at Newfoundland and Labrador prisons

The provincial government has finished its examination of an independent review of inmate deaths at Newfoundland and Labrador correctional institutes. 

Later today, Minister of Justice and Public Safety Andrew Parsons and Minister of Health and Community Services John Haggie will discuss the Newfoundland and Labrador Corrections and Community Services: Deaths in Custody Review with members of the media.

First announced last May, the review was an external review of the circumstances surrounding the death of three inmates at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary and the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women between Aug. 31, 2017, and May 26, 2018. A fourth death last summer was added to the review in July.

The government retained retired RNC Supt. Marlene Jesso to conduct the review. Jesso was asked to examine staff response to the situations, and the appropriateness of related policies and procedures. Where appropriate and necessary, Jesso was asked to provide recommendations.


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