Nfld. & Labrador

Retired police officer finishes report into deaths of 4 N.L. inmates

The independent review will be presented to families before it's made public.

Independent review will be presented to families before it's made public

From left to right, Samantha Piercey, Chris Sutton, Doug Neary and Skye Martin, all died while incarcerated at provincial correctional institutions between August 2017 and June 2018. (Facebook)

Newfoundland and Labrador's justice department says it has received a copy of an independent report into the deaths of two women and two men at provincial correctional institutions.

Retired Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Supt. Marlene Jesso was hired to complete the review, titled Newfoundland and Labrador Corrections and Community Services: Deaths in Custody Review.

It was commissioned after the deaths of Doug Neary, Skye Martin, Samantha Piercey and Christopher Sutton, between Aug. 31, 2017, and June 30, 2018.

A news release issued Friday said the review "examined staff response along with the appropriateness of related policies and procedures."

The report's findings and recommendations will be released first to the families of the four people who died. 

"To the families of the inmates, I can only hope that this review and my resolve to do better brings you closure during these difficult times," said Justice Minister Andrew Parsons in a statement. 

Mothers, sons, husbands and sisters

Doug Neary, a married father of two, took his own life at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in August 2017.

On April 21, 2018, mother of one, Skye Martin, 27, died while incarcerated at the Correctional Centre For Women in Clarenville.

Samantha Piercey of Corner Brook died while in the same facility the next month.

Doug Neary and Chris Sutton died at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's. (CBC)

The deaths sparked public outcry and questions surrounding how people with mental illness were being handled within the justice system, resulting in the justice department commissioning Jesso's help to complete a review.

After the review was announced, on June 30, Christopher Sutton, an inmate at HMP also took his own life. 

Findings private for now

Parsons spoke to media Friday afternoon but would not comment on the content of the report.

The province committed to allowing families of the deceased to review Jesso's recommendations before they were made public, he said.

"Some have indicated that they'd like to see it now. Some have indicated that they want to wait until after Christmas, and we will be respecting the family's wishes on that," he said.

Parsons would not yet say whether he had committed to any recommendations in the report, but said change has been "ongoing" within the prison system, especially around segregation.

"This is a topic that's pretty big in corrections system discussions across the country," he said, alluding to challenges posed by the state of aging and crowded corrections facilities.

"We're trying our best ... Our biggest facility is something that's not conducive to 21st century corrections ... it just makes everything extremely difficult."

With files from Ryan Cooke

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