We are in awe of the strength of women in the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women (NLCCW) in Clarenville, who have written a letter addressing their grief and distress following the recent death of two women they were incarcerated with. As advocates for women across our province, we know the importance of amplifying the voices of women when they speak about their own experiences of injustice, and we recognize the powerful act of speaking out in the wake of these tragedies.
As women in NLCCW have said:
“So with these things happening and inmates being neglected at the wrong times, how can any of us feel safe?”
The St. John’s Status of Women Council and all our programs (St. John’s Women’s Centre, Marguerite’s Place supportive housing program, and the Safe Harbour Outreach Project) echo and validate the concerns that women have identified. Like these women, we have come to see the impacts on women who need mental health services, holistic health care, housing, culturally appropriate Indigenous supports, counselling, and support for the violence they have experienced yet receive time behind bars. We believe our province has the ability to act now to address chronically overcrowded and under-resourced prisons and must act now to divert women in our criminal justice system to essential services and supports that they need and are identifying.
In recognizing the disconnect between the inmates’ feelings of safety, and the response from our institutions, we call for immediate action, transparency, and accountability from the departments and institutions who are responsible for incarcerated people in our province and any action to be done in consultation with front line community advocates for prisoners. Once again, we call on the provincial Department of Justice and Public Safety for an immediate assessment of the needs of people in our prisons with public oversight.
We continue to hold the families and friends of Skye Martin and Samantha Piercey in our thoughts.