John Howard Society eyes Labrador expansion to fill 'gaps'

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John Howard Society eyes Labrador expansion to fill 'gaps'

John Howard Society eyes Labrador expansion to fill 'gaps'

The John Howard Society wants to offer its services in Labrador — and easing the overcrowding at the region's correctional facility in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is a top priority.

"There are gaps up there in terms of what's needed," says executive director, Cindy Murphy.

"We want to very mindful of that and not come up as the experts, but you know we do have some expertise we can lend."

The John Howard Society offers a variety of services in Newfoundland, and in other provinces, including halfway houses, addictions and employment counselling and programs to help reduce the risk of people reoffending.

It has offices in Corner Brook and Stephenville, and its provincial headquarters is in St. John's.

Murphy said she is very aware that different regions may need a different focus on services.

"[We] can't just take Newfoundland services and move it to Labrador," she told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"[We're looking at] is there an opportunity for us to partner with folks to, sort of say, 'We have a lot of expertise in corrections and working with corrections population.'"

Murphy said the group has hired a consultant, who has put together an advisory committee to figure out precisely the services that should be offered in Labrador.

"So as we gather information, we really hope by late fall that that report will be completed and that will help us sort of guide our way in terms of how we might be able to provide services and who we might be able to partner with," she said.

Overcrowding 'creates so many problems'

One issue remains the same, said Murphy, it doesn't matter which part of the province you're talking about.

"Crowding creates so many problems in and of itself. Everything from not being able to offer the same amount of services, people are waitlisted for services — if they are available — the tension it creates in the institution both for staff and for inmates, and just general basic dignity, because often times people are double and triple-bunked," she said.

"I think more people can be managed safely in the community."

Murphy believes some people in jail who are charged but not convicted don't need to be there.

"Many of those we know are nonviolent, so we think that those can be safely managed in the community under supervision," she said.

Murphy said a bail supervision program would go a long way in Labrador.

"This is not rocket science, it's been done in many jurisdictions. I know John Howard [branches] across the country in various jurisdictions are doing this type of work," she said.

"It can happen here, too."

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