Fredericton woman says jail staff left her stranded at gas station on outskirts

Serena Woods says corrections staff abandoned her outside Miramichi on Family Day weekend and suggested she hitchhike home to Fredericton.

Serena Woods was left to fend for herself after being released from the Miramichi jail over Family Day weekend

Serena Woods had to hitch a ride from a gas station outside Miramichi to Moncton, then to Fredericton, after correctional staff left her at the side of the road over the Family Day weekend. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Serena Woods says jail staff abandoned her at a gas station outside Miramichi on Family Day weekend, leaving her to find her way back to Fredericton at night, with less than $20 in her pocket.

Woods said she was brought to the New Brunswick Women's Correctional Centre in Miramichi for failing to pay two $100 fines.

 'They told me it wasn't a hotel and I was to go home.'- Serena Woods

One fine was for breaching a court order, the other for not paying a victim surcharge.

She didn't have the money to pay, so Fredericton police put her in a holding cell overnight.

Since Fredericton police say they aren't allowed to hold someone more than 24 hours, Woods was transferred by sheriffs to the Miramichi jail.

It was late in the afternoon on Family Day.

When Woods arrived at the jail, she said, she was told her fine was deemed paid because of the time she'd already spent in custody. She was told she didn't have to stay in the jail and could go home.

Though certainly no stranger to living life on the margins, Serena Woods of Fredericton says there was no need of the way she was treated by Fredericton police, and sheriffs at the women’s prison in Miramichi. When she was found to have an outstanding small fine she couldn’t pay.Fredericton police drove her all the way to Miramichi to be jailed. After being turned over to sheriffs, they then decided she’s “served her time,” and would be released. 1:18

But instead of sheriffs taking her back to Fredericton, jail staff drove Woods to a gas station and told her she could hitchhike home.

"They told me they couldn't keep me because it wasn't a hotel," she said. "And I would have gladly stayed the one night, just to get a ride home, shackled and everything. But no, they told me it wasn't a hotel and I was to go home.

"They just stood there and said, 'You got to go now.'"

Stranded overnight

A copy of the receipt for Woods's fine, which the Miramichi jail deemed was paid because of time served. (Catherine Harrop/CBC )

Woods's fine receipt says it was printed at 4:25 p.m. on Feb. 19, a holiday Monday.

It was evening when corrections staff dropped her off at the Circle K in Miramichi, she said.

Bus service from Miramichi to Fredericton is once a day — at 9:40 a.m.

Tickets also cost $77.20.

Trucker helps her out

Woods only had $18 at the time.

She watched for someone she felt safe to drive with and got a ride from a trucker heading to Moncton.

Stranded at the Shell station just outside Moncton at 10 p.m., she was picked up by trucker Victor Poirier.

He gave her a place to sleep, paid for her breakfast and, with his company's approval, took her to Fredericton on his day's run.

Trucker Victor Poirier gave Woods a ride to Fredericton from Moncton. (CBC )

"Somewheres along the line, people have to treat people like human beings," Poirier said. "So when I seen she needed help, I gave her the help that she needed."

Poirier later contacted Charles LeBlanc, a local blogger, who first publicized her story.

Province won't comment 

In an emailed statement, the Department of Justice said it will not speak about individual cases, even with permission.

Spokesperson Danielle Elliott instead sent the rules governing the release of a prisoner.

The rules say correctional staff will try to help prisoners find family or community resources, but transportation upon their release is the responsibility of the offender.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story indicated it was sheriffs who dropped Serena Woods off at a gas station. In fact, it was staff from the Miramichi jail.
    Mar 16, 2018 6:26 PM AT

With files from Catherine Harrop

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