Look beyond St. John's for prison: Harbour Grace councillor
The provincial government is set to move ahead with plans to build a new penitentiary, but not everyone agrees about where it should be.
Hayward Blake, a town councillor in Harbour Grace, says he wants his town to have a shot at the economic stimulus the new penitentiary could provide, rather than see St. John's treated as the only possible location.
"It shouldn't be the default location. This new prison would be a major boost to any part of this province," he said.
Some people point to the quality of services that can be provided to inmates as the most important factor in the decision, as this is one of the reasons Her Majesty's Penitentiary is being replaced.
Blake said that both economic needs, as well as the needs of inmates, must be factors in choosing the new prison's location.
"It's a whole package that needs to be looked at," said Blake. "The provincial government needs to look at can this facility be located anywhere other than St. John's. I hope that the government will do its due diligence and look at all of the areas of the province that might be able to house a penitentiary."
In an interview with The St. John's Morning Show on CBC Radio, Blake responded to concerns that the facilities did not exist in Harbour Grace to support a penitentiary.
"Certainly Harbour Grace has a court system," said Blake. "There are hospitals in this area. Eastern Health is well represented here with a number of services."
He added that Harbour Grace is close enough to St. John's that inmates could be transported if any services were needed there.
Keith Francis, who has spent time in at least 14 prisons, said HMP in St. John's is the worst he's ever been in.
"It's a hole, there's no way to describe it. The staff are untrained, the conditions there are unbearable," Francis told CBC News.
"They don't know how to identify different problems, they don't know how to identify or approach different people."
Blake said Harbour Grace was promised a federal penitentiary a couple of decades ago, but plans for it fell through.