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On OUR RADAR: Correctional Services Act

Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons and Megan Collins, assistant deputy minister of public safety and enforcement, detail amendments to the Correctional Services Act on Thursday. The revisions made their way through second reading in the House of Assembly on Thursday afternoon and, as Parsons described, are the first step to bringing the law into force.
Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons and Megan Collins, assistant deputy minister of public safety and enforcement, detail amendments to the Correctional Services Act. The revisions made their way through second reading in the House of Assembly the same day, April 11, 2019. - SaltWire File Photo
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Critics have long said the existing legislation governing provincial prisons in Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t reflect the modern, rehabilitative approach to corrections, including full recognition of the rights of inmates during their time in custody.  

Responding to the call to modernize the legislation, the Correctional Services Act was introduced, but never brought into force. 

The Liberals have promised to make new corrections law a reality.

2008 — The “Decades of Darkness” report notes existing legislation, including the Prisons Act, uses outdated terms, failing to reflect a rehabilitative approach.

2011 — The Correctional Services Act is introduced by the Progressive Conservative government. It is meant to replace both the Prisons Act (proclaimed in 1969) and the Adult Corrections Act (1975), and ultimately receives Royal Assent. The next step is finalizing regulations and details needed to bring the new act into force. 

2015 — A provincial election. The Liberals take power from the Progressive Conservatives. Andrew Parsons is named justice minister. 

2018 — In December, RNC Supt. Marlene Jesso submits her report to the government, a review of the deaths of Doug Neary, Skye Martin, Samantha Piercey and Christopher Sutton. Jesso’s Number 1 recommendation coming out of the review is for the province to take immediate steps to proclaim the Correctional Services Act and ensure all associated regulations and policies are updated.

April 2019 — The Liberals table a list of amendments to the 2011 Act, still not in force. The edits pass and the updated act is given Royal Assent on April 17, 2019 — the same day a provincial election is called.  

May 2019 — Election day. The Liberals win a minority government. Justice Minister Andrew Parsons is re-elected.

July 2019 — The act is waiting to be enacted. The government needs to finalize the regulations, including around an introduction of independent adjudicators for provincial prisons. From the department: “It is anticipated that the Correctional Services Act will be proclaimed by the end of the year. Work is ongoing to finalize regulations that fall in line with best practice standards, and processes that are fair and delivered in a fiscally responsible manner.”


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