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SPECIAL REPORT: Mixed views on Her Majesty's Penitentiary location in St. John's

Is prime real estate on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s the best site for a prison? Send us a letter and tell us what you think.
Is prime real estate on Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s the best site for a prison? Send us a letter and tell us what you think. - Glen Whiffen

If a new prison is ever built, where should it be?

People on the street are split on whether a replacement for Her Majesty’s Penitentiary should sit on the banks of Quidi Vidi Lake.

With public conversation happening about the state of the Pen and what a new prison might look like, the prison’s physical location was a topic for debate when The Telegram took to the banks of Quidi Vidi recently to find out what people thought.

“It can be an eyesore. It’s not in a lovely place for everyone else,” said Mykila Sherren.

“I think changing the location would probably be best. It doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of room to get out and do things. If it was moved out of the city, then there could probably be more land to use for gardening, exercise, soccer fields.”

Have your say
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One man who works at the prison and asked not to be named said the whole building needs to go.

“It should be torn down – it’s rat-infested. The whole prison. You lay a cookie in the cell, wait for a few minutes, there’s seven or eight mice fighting for it. Every cell,” he said.

“Do you really need to have that there? I think it’s in bad shape. I think just tear that down and start over somewhere else,” suggested another walker, who didn’t want their name published.

Andrew Tucker thinks the prison has become part of the geography of the city.

“It’s odd. It’s an odd placement for it. But it’s a part of the lake, a part of the area. I think if it did shut down, I’d like to see it turned into a museum or something like that,” he said.

Margaret Fleming told The Telegram the lake could have therapeutic purposes for those spending time inside.

“Keep it right there, absolutely. You got the lake — I mean, people are in prison, they’re confined to their spaces. If they look out their window and see a bit of lake, a bit of nature, it’ll help them get up tomorrow,” said Fleming.

Joan Follett, walking with her dog Bruce, is not sure the current placement is the best.

“If it does need to be replaced, does it need to be there? It’s such a beautiful spot, that having a prison here – yes, it’s a function of our society to have a prison and we have to have rehabilitation, but if you’re going to redo it and replace it, does it have to be there on such a gorgeous piece of land?”
Matt O’Quinn, walking two dogs, hadn’t put much thought into the topic beforehand, but he says he can understand why people might want the prison moved, even though he has no problem with its location.

“I would say it’s fine where it is. I guess it’s close to a lot of residential areas, but it’s got to be good for rehabilitation to be able to not be too far removed. If we shoved them out, too far away, it’s just going to make things worse,” he said.

“You could do worse for location.”

Mary Warford thinks a reimagining of the area is needed, without the prison.

“They should bulldoze the whole thing down. Maybe incorporate a play area for children,” she said.”

“The prison should have been gone a long time ago.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

Read other articles in our Special Report on HMP here and here.

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