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Province launches prisoner court appearances through video link

<p>Prisoners will soon be able to make some court appearances, without ever having to leave jail, via a video link — one of several measures the province announced to ease pressure on an overburded justice system.<br /></p>

Prisoners will soon be able to make some court appearances, without ever having to leave jail, via a video link.

It's one of several steps the province announced Wednesday to try to ease pressure on an overburdened justice system. More police officers have led to more charges and more inmates. And that's coincided with more mistaken releases and escapes.

New changes include hiring more staff, revamping transfer forms to ensure accuracy and adding new technology.

"The recommendations that we are implementing will result in less risk and fewer releases and escapes," said Deputy Justice Minister Marian Tyson.

But the moves were not all well-received. Liberal Justice critic Michel Samson slammed the idea of video court appearances.

"The whole intent of our justice system is that the accused have to appear in front of a court in front of their peers and the people that they've wronged," he said. "So the last thing we need is for this Tory government to allow criminals in this province to hide behind a video camera."

The changes stem from an independent Deloitte report received last fall. The government says 17 of 51 recommendations have so far been completed, and the rest are underway. But the union representing corrections workers called that misleading and says workers are burnt out.

For example, the department said it has created eight new positions in the admissions/discharge area.

The union said several of those spots either haven't yet been filed or are filled by part-time workers.

"We're very frustrated because this has dragged on for way too long," said union leader Jim Gosse.
"And yes, offenders will unfortunately continue to be released in error until this employer decides that they're going to honestly sit down with the union and address the staffing issues and the deficiencies."

 
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