Nova Scotia Department of Justice's recent history of missing prisoners

The Justice Department's scrutiny of the Marc Joseph Pellerin escape is the latest in a string of reviews the province has conducted after prisoners either escaped or were set free by mistake.

Human error, computer problems and a staff shortage have been blamed over the years

Last month's prisoner escape in Truro is just one of several in recent years in Nova Scotia.

The Justice Department's scrutiny of the Marc Joseph Pellerin escape is the latest in a string of reviews the province has conducted after prisoners either escaped or were set free by mistake. Here are some incidents in the last eight years.

Jan. 23, 2008

Eric Latham of Dartmouth was released in error when the supervisor on duty at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth misread police paperwork and told him he was free to go. Latham was facing charges of aggravated assault and unauthorized possession of a firearm. 

Following the release, Sean Kelly, director of provincial correctional services, said the department was learning from its mistakes and had drafted new arrest forms that were easier to interpret.

April 1, 2009

Ryan Jessop of Dartmouth was mistakenly released following a court appearance on charges of breaking and entering, possession of a weapon, uttering threats and extortion. The Justice Department said an error on Jessop's form indicated he didn't have to return to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

Jessop was the second prisoner to be mistakenly released in eight days.

Then justice minister Cecil Clarke didn't mince words: "The public's faith in the justice system is shaken, and we will no longer tolerate human errors as a result of inattention and carelessness. This is completely unacceptable and we have to take serious action."

Nov. 10, 2010

Vernon Martell turns himself into police after being freed by mistake. He was serving a conditional sentence in the community for theft under $5,000, but had been sent to jail for breaching that sentence. Martell wasn't discovered missing until three days later. The Justice Department blamed a clerical error.

Feb. 16, 2012

Thomas Jones was inside a sheriffs van when he kicked out the back window and ran off. He was being taken to the Dartmouth courthouse at the time to be sentenced on a breaking and entering charge.

At the time, he also faced charges of assault, unlawful confinement, arson, uttering threats and breach of conditions. Jones himself called police four hours later.

Then justice minister Ross Landry said improvements to prisoner transfer vans would prevent future inmates from escaping.

"We are in the process of looking to put bars on that window," he said at the time. "It's unfortunate this incident happened here and I take that incident extremely seriously."

Nov. 7, 2014

Eliahs Knudsen Kent was being held on remand and faced a variety of charges, including attempted murder, robbery, robbery to steal a firearm, using a firearm in the commission of an offence and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

He walked out of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth after he posed as another inmate and tricked staff into releasing him.

The justice minister at the time, Lena Diab, said she was angry. "I'm appalled. I don't know how something this serious could happen. This individual is dangerous."

Kent was arrested the next day in Spryfield.

Dec. 8, 2014

Robert Eisnor walked out of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility at 6:00 a.m. after serving his usual weekend sentence for breaching a court order. He was supposed to be released at 6:00 p.m. 

He was found around 10:00 a.m. and brought back to serve the rest of the day. Bill Smith, the executive director of correctional services, said it seems that staff misread the release time.

"We're very concerned and we're acting upon that," he said at the time. "But where there are humans, there will be human error."


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