A week after Jermaine Carvery brazenly escaped from the custody of two corrections officers in broad daylight, the Justice Minister has ordered an external audit of the province’s jails.
“The audit will look at the safety and security procedures with relation to the incidents that have occurred in the past year,” Cecil Clarke said yesterday after cabinet.
In the past four months, there have been four cases of prisoners escaping or being mistakenly released from detention centres in the province.
Clarke said the incidents have raised public concern and he ordered the audit to increase Nova Scotians’ confidence in the correctional system.
In the short term, the minister said the department will procure new “state of the art” leg shackles that can’t be easily jimmied and will make changes to management in response to concerns raised in the department’s annual internal review.
Jim Gosse, the president of local 480 Nova Scotia General Employees Union that represents corrections officers, said the minister’s response is inadequate and their concerns require immediate remedies.
“I think it’s a lot of lip service myself and we’ve heard it all too often,” he said.
The union requested officers be provided with “adequate” equipment to do their jobs including batons, pepper spray, Tasers and possibly even handguns.
But Clarke said the department’s policy will not change and they will not allow corrections officers to carry any of these items.
Liberal justice critic Michel Samson is looking at introducing legislation that will allow corrections staff to be armed while conducting escorts in the community.
“When your justice system has people in incarceration and can’t hold them there, it’s not working,” he said.
Gosse said Carvery’s escape during an escort is the result of overcrowded and understaffed facilities combined with inadequately trained and poorly equipped officers.
The external audit will begin promptly, Clarke said, and the results will be publicly released upon completion.