Nfld. & Labrador

Land in White Hills set aside for new penitentiary — if necessary

When — or if — an HMP replacement will be built is up in the air.

When — or if — HMP replacement will be built up in the air

A view of Her Majesty's Penitentiary from Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's. (CBC)

A mix of federal and provincial land is available in the White Hills of St. John's for a new penitentiary — when and if it's built, CBC News has confirmed.

In a statement, the Department of Transportation and Works said there is land available in the area, near Quidi Vidi Lake, to accommodate a new correctional facility without having to purchase new land. However, no decision has been made.

"Replacing HMP [Her Majesty's Penitentiary] is my number one infrastructure priority and it has been for years," Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

"I think we have reached a critical time. While we consider however, or if, a new facility can be achieved given our fiscal reality, we recognize there are things we can do right now to improve conditions for inmates."

Meanwhile, Parsons said a report by consultant EY (formerly Ernst & Young) into a value-for-money assessment has been finished, and is in the hands of government.

The report recommends the best financial way to move forward with a replacement. However, that recommendation has not been made public, and is being considered in the government budget process.

Her Majesty's Penitentiary, as seen in the early 1900s. Sgt. Warder Daniel Crotty, right, in the 1920s. (Facebook/Her Majesty's Penitentiary Museum/Archives)

There have been many calls and unfulfilled promises for a replacement for the Victorian-era jail by politicians, both federally and provincially.

HMP is the oldest operating correctional facility in Canada, and to put it in perspective, the original structure was erected the same year Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species and Charles Dickens released A Tale of Two Cities.

Many renovations have been done over the decades, but those renovations haven't stifled calls for a newer building.

Replace HMP with 'modern' design: new report

A new provincial correctional institution should replace HMP, according to a report released Wednesday afternoon.

It's one of 17 recommendations outlined in a review of four inmates who died while in N.L. prisons between August 2017 and June 2018. 

The new building should "incorporate modern correctional design, dedicated space to address mental health, housing and programming needs" for prisoners, states the report.

Managers at HMP and the Clarenville women's prison face "many challenges" when it comes to the day-to-day operations, according to the review.

"Those challenges are more difficult for managers and staff in an aging facility," states the report. 

"The lack of investment in modern facility is inhibiting progress in all operational areas which then impacts the well-being of staff and inmates."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ariana Kelland

Investigative reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's. She is working as a member of CBC's Atlantic Investigative Unit.

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