July 11, 2023
John Hogan, Minister
Department of Justice and Public Safety
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s NL
Dear Minister Hogan,
Thank you for meeting with me, MHA Conway-Ottenheimer and members of our staff on June
28, 2023 in response to the concerns I raised about conditions at His Majesty’s Penitentiary in
my letter of June 17, 2023. The letter was in response to concerns raised by inmates and family
members of inmates about excessive amounts of time confined to cells, the lack of family
visitations, and the inability of inmates to attend necessary medical appointments. In that
letter, I raised concerns that the lack of correctional officers was contributing to these problems.
The discussion was fulsome and we appreciated the frankness about conditions at HMP, your
discussions with the president of NAPE, and attempts to find immediate solutions. While a new
correctional facility promises to address many of the deficiencies of HMP, that is the long term.
These immediate measures are needed to address the immediate concerns raised in my letter
and in our meeting.
We offered to provide recommendations, and you indicated you would be open to them. A
March 2023 report prepared by NAPE offers several. With that in mind, we make the following
Continue to talk and listen to NAPE leadership and correctional officers. As frontline workers and the union that represents them, they are in the best position to explain why there is a staffing crisis and how best to address it.
Immediately complete an assessment to determine how many staff are needed and determine which personnel who are retired or who are close to retirement would be willing to stay on for the short term with the appropriate financial incentive. These “seasoned veterans” would be useful in training in and mentoring new recruits.
Implement significant financial incentives to attract retired correctional officers to return to duty and encourage those thinking of retiring or transferring out to stay on as correctional officers.
Ensure senior management and government officials are accessible when it comes to addressing the concerns of correctional officers and inmates.
Consider supervised release of low risk prisoners to reduce crowding and double bunking, and to reduce the number of prisoners in need of supervision.
Increase the number of cameras.
Improve communication for staff on duty — “for example, ‘technology, like radios or iPhones.”
Construct a temporary staff lounge or “staff house” to allow staff to disconnect from work, decompress, eat lunch in relative piece. Construct a temporary locker room to allow staff change before and after work. This could be as simple as a converted trailer or modular room.
Upgrade ventilation system to maximize airflow and cooling during hot weather.
Provide onsite psychologist to counsel staff.
Considering that a new correctional facility will not be built for another 3 - 5 years, construct an exterior perimeter or modify the existing wall so packages cannot easily be tossed over the wall.
This is only a partial list, and I am sure MHA Conway-Ottenheimer and the leadership of NAPE
can provide more.
I look forward to further discussion and updates on this issue.
James Dinn, MHA
St. John’s Centre
Leader, NL NDP
Cc: Helen Conway-Ottenheimer, MHA, Harbour Main