In support of prisoners and prison justice activism in Canada
Groups Demand Closure of 150 year old Newfoundland Jail

Penitentiary ancient, obsolete: advocates
October 18, 2005
CBC News

The minister of justice admits that Her Majesty's Penitentiary [located in St. John's, Newfoundland] – parts of which were built in the age of Charles Dickens – has outlived its usefulness.

However, Tom Marshall is not keen to commit to construction of a new prison to replace HMP.

Parts of the prison were built were 150 years ago. Various additions were built over succeeding decades.

The John Howard Society, who works with inmates and parolees, says the prison is ancient and needs to be replaced.

"The narrow corridors, the old grilled bars in the old section, the need of painting in places, the lack of programming space, which is really, really apparent … something needs to be done in a very planned way," said Terry Carlson, the society's executive director.

HMP houses many of the province's convicts who are sentenced to two years or less in prison.

Marshall says a good case can be made to renovating the prison, or replacing it altogether. He has asked officials in his department to review the matter.

However, Marshall cautions that cabinet already faces numerous demands.

"Government has many priorities in terms of its capital needs," Marshall said.

"Planning for the prison will be brought forward and will be dealt with by government as it examines its priorities for all other capital structures, such as schools and hospitals and so on."

Marshall could not give an indication when cabinet will consider the HMP issue.