House arrest monitoring program cut

The province's ankle bracelet program for electronic monitoring of people under house arrest has been cut as part of the provincial government's recent budget.
Defence attorney Randy Piercey says cutting the electronic monitoring program is a step back for the province's justice system. (CBC)

The Justice Department's ankle bracelet monitoring program for people under house arrest has been cut as part of last week's provincial budget.

Defence lawyer Randy Piercey said many of his clients were a part of the program, adding it had positive results.

"I'm disappointed, I'm concerned, and I guess I'm somewhat surprised," he said.

According to Piercey, cutting the program is a step back for the province's justice system.

"I anticipate that there will be arguments now by the Crown that people who otherwise would have gotten conditional sentences shouldn't get them because [the program] is no longer available," Piercey said.

"I would hope that judges would accept that if the Crown has determined not to supply that, there shouldn't be prejudice to an accused person by the failure of the Crown to provide something that would have otherwise given them a conditional sentence."

Probation officers let go

Meanwhile, adult probation offices in Port aux Basques and Springdale are also closing.

As well, of the 37 probation officers in the province, six are being laid off, and two vacant positions will not be filled.

Piercey said cutting the number of probation officers will also have a negative impact on the justice system.

"I think probation officers offer a wonderful service in getting people back on the right track, in terms of offering some counselling to these people," he said.

"If the counselling is not as intensive because there's fewer probation officers there to do it, well then the program won't be as successful."

Piercey said prisoner rehabilitation will become more challenging.

"The aim of the justice system is to protect public, and one of the ways they protect public is to rehabilitate people — permit people to be rehabilitated by continuing to work or continuing to go to school, continuing to have a life outside that awful institution we call the penitentiary," Piercey said.

According to Piercey, the cuts will also slow down the entire legal process.

"I think that pre-sentence reports will now take longer to prepare because there are fewer people to prepare them. I would be afraid that the pre-sentence reports will not be as detailed as they have been in the past because they just won't have the time to do them."

Probation officers also put together pre-sentence reports. Piercey said fewer probation officers could mean less detail in those reports, and possibly longer court wait times.