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N.S. failing to properly monitor people serving community sentences: auditor general

·3 min read

HALIFAX — The company contracted by Nova Scotia to monitor convicts serving community sentences isn't fulfilling its responsibilities, and probation officers aren't fully complying with corrections policies, the province's auditor general said Tuesday.

Nova Scotia must ensure public safety by immediately improving how it monitors people serving sentences in the community, auditor Kim Adair said in her report. Convicts who serve community sentences are allowed to live outside provincial jails, typically under the supervision of probation officers.

“Public confidence has to be maintained in the community correction system and there were many points of failure throughout the testing of this audit," Adair said.

She told reporters Tuesday that the Justice Department failed to properly oversee the company hired to monitor convicts serving community sentences, adding that the firm was paid about $250,000 each year for the past five years.

The auditor did not name the company in her report, but the Justice Department confirmed Jemtec Inc. is the province's electronic supervision service provider. The British Columbia-based firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Adair's audit, which covers Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2020, tested a sample of 30 electronic supervision alerts from daily reports submitted from Jemtec to the Justice Department.

An alert is generated when someone serving a community sentence violates conditions like curfew or if they travel somewhere they're not permitted to be. There are various types of electronic supervision methods, including attaching a tracking device to a person's leg.

The audit found that in 20 of 30 alerts — two-thirds of the sample — Jemtec “did not follow protocol despite indicating they had done so.”

“Electronic supervision is the highest form of monitoring and if this is not properly managed, public safety could be at risk,” Adair said.

Meanwhile, some of Nova Scotia's 80 probation officers are not meeting with people as required and are not complying with corrections policies, resulting in poor supervision and lack of oversight, Adair said.

It's the responsibility of senior probation officers, she said, to ensure that all corrections staff are making the appropriate visits to people serving community-based sentences. Those visits, Adair said, were "not happening as (they) should."

As of March 2020, there were 4,700 people serving community-based sentences in Nova Scotia, which is 10 times more than the number of people in provincial custody.

Adair said it’s concerning that the Justice Department was not aware of the lack of oversight until the audit took place.

“My biggest concern is the public risk factor,” she said.

In an emailed statement, Justice Minister Brad Johns said his department recognizes the "need to improve our processes for documenting case management decisions and providing oversight to service providers."

Johns said that upon reading the auditor general's report, the department "immediately" contacted Jemtec, adding that the company has since "updated their quality assurance processes."

The audit comes with 10 recommendations, all of which the department has agreed to implement. The recommendations include developing a new process to determine if the electronic service provider is in fact fulfilling its contract and identifying community corrections staff who haven’t fulfilled training requirements.

Eight of the recommendations will be completed by May 2023, a Justice Department spokesperson said. Two recommendations will be completed later: the creation of an orientation program for new community corrections staff will be complete by November 2023, and the recommendation to identify incomplete correctional staff training will be done by May 2025.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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