Inmates refused to return to cells, damaged prison, surrendered peacefully
Twelve inmates at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s destroyed furniture and refused to return to their cells Tuesday night, in the third major disturbance at the prison in the past year.
© Diane Crocker
Justice Minister Terry French. — File photo
Justice Minister Terry French said Wednesday morning the problem started about 6 p.m. when an inmate told a guard he feared for his safety. The guard then asked the inmates in living unit 4A to return to their cells.
“They refused. The correctional officers then went into the unit and had a discussion at that time,” said French. “They left the unit — they didn’t feel safe, so they themselves left, and the emergency response team was then assembled and went in.”
It was a couple of hours by the time the emergency response team went in, said French. “At that time, all the inmates were lying down and surrendering peacefully, thank God.” French said a “significant amount” of damage was done to the living unit, but no one was hurt.
In February, Kenny Green — at the time charged with manslaughter, and subsequently convicted — was attacked by inmates in the prison chapel. Last August, a riot broke out in which inmates caused damage to the prison and threatened to kill hostages and guards.
“Unfortunately, these incidents do happen from time to time,” said French.
Liberal justice critic Jim Bennett said the spate of incidents points to a bigger problem. “The building needs to be replaced. The government has made a promise — that’s just not good enough,” he said. “It’ll take far too long, and people’s lives are risk.”
Prison staff are doing a “stellar job” with the tools they have, said Bennett, but more needs to be done to protect staff and inmates.
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