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Labrador prison expansion will let women serve time closer to home, says justice minister

·2 min read
The Labrador Correctional Centre will be expanded to house an additional 36 inmates, according to Justice Minister John Hogan. Construction is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2024. (Katie Breen/CBC - image credit)
The Labrador Correctional Centre will be expanded to house an additional 36 inmates, according to Justice Minister John Hogan. Construction is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2024. (Katie Breen/CBC - image credit)
Katie Breen/CBC
Katie Breen/CBC

A prison expansion in Happy Valley-Goose Bay will allow more incarcerated Labrador women to serve time in the region instead of in St. John's or Clarenville.

Justice Minister John Hogan says the expansion of the Labrador Correctional Centre — construction is set to begin next year with completion by the end of 2024 — will create an additional 18 cells to house 36 inmates. The facility will also get upgrades to its kitchen, laundry facility and programming suites among other additions.

The prison's current capacity of 53 prisoners often means women have to travel to Newfoundland to serve time. Hogan said the expansion is important because it will allow more women serving prison time to be closer to home with family along with expanding services to help them reintegrate into the region.

"That's quite clearly very important, to maintain family contact. We understand the importance of fostering family relationships so people can work to get rehabilitated and hopefully get back to be productive members of society," Hogan told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning Monday.

"Part of going to prison and going to these facilities is a punishment for a crime that's committed, but also part of this is rehabilitation. People who are there, inmates who are there, need proper facilities, proper mental health treatments, proper addictions treatments, to break the cycle of crime they may be in."

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Hogan said the expansion will also create more programs targeted to the needs of Indigenous inmates and will add a new medical suite that will be staffed with doctors, nurses and addictions professionals and will have telehealth options.

"It's really a win-win all around once this facility gets up and running," he said.

Helping women through system is key: Advocacy group

Michelle Gushue of the Elizabeth Fry Society welcomed the news of the expansion.

"It can be a very scary process. So having someone walking that journey with them and holding their hand, somebody who has knowledge of the system … it can be very important," said Gushue told The St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday. "Especially when you have women who just don't understand the language."

The not-for-profit group supports and advocates for criminalized women and gender-diverse people and offering services to help them transition out of the criminal justice system.

Heather Gillis/CBC
Heather Gillis/CBC

Gushue said other issues affecting women in the criminal justice system are getting broader and more severe, including a lack of available housing for women once they are released and a need for better medical and mental health services and more guard training to better help LGBTQ individuals.

"That's a conversation we've been having for years and years," she said. "The call is on government to implement in our female institution here a female doctor to address the needs and concerns of our women."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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