Lawyers oppose moving jail away from Amherst

Brad Works
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AMHERST - Fearing delays to justice and cost increases in the system, lawyers here are opposing the possible relocation of the local jail.

In a two-page letter to Nova Scotia Justice Minister Cecil Clarke, the Cumberland County Barristers' Association on Thursday said moving the Cumberland County Correctional Centre anywhere outside of the region's largest centre will slow the administration of justice.
"We feel this is an issue that impacts access," association president Stephanie Hillson told the Amherst Daily News.
At issue is where a replacement for the aging jail - located on Victoria Street in Amherst - should be located. The towns of Amherst and Springhill, and the county have expressed interest in having it built in their municipalities.
The lawyers group is concerned the decision-making process has been all but void of input from people who work in the system.
"We are concerned that those in charge of choosing the location of the new jail are apparently doing so without consulting those groups best able to predict how the administration of justice in Cumberland County will be affected," Hillson wrote in her letter.
According to the president, about 25 per cent of the inmates at the provincially run facility are on remand - meaning they have not been found guilty of an offence.
She noted they require "in-person" contact with their lawyers and often have frequent court appearances.
"(Amherst) has the greatest number of services directly related to the jail inmates," Hillson said.
"The courts, the Crown (attorney), probation services, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, and the majority of lawyers who practice criminal law in Cumberland County are all located in Amherst."
The association said moving the jail to Springhill, as has recently been suggested, would make it "more difficult, time-consuming and expensive" for inmates to meet with their legal counsel.
"Unfortunately, we don't see any cost savings to relocating the jail to Springhill," the letter said.
"Due to their competing protocols and security concerns, we are unconvinced that there are any "services" that will be shared by inmates at the provincial and federal correctional systems."
Hill maintained the group's position is not a slight against the people of Springhill.
"It's just that anywhere too far from Amherst will increase expense and delays. It's not based on politics - it's geography."
bworks@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Cumberland County Correctional Centre, Amherst Daily News

Geographic location: Amherst, Cumberland County, Springhill Nova Scotia Victoria Street

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Recent comments

  • Guy
    January 18, 2010 - 11:23

    I can totally see where the towns people of Springhill are coming from, wanting anything to be located there, to stimulate their economy. However, they are missing the point. A jail is not about stimulating the economy, its about incarcerating people in violation of the law. Amherst is the best place to provide services associated with this type of facility. As well as mentioned in the article, The Penetentiary in Springhill won't be sharing services with a local jail because of security and potentially even contractual obligations. As others have mentioned, it will be at greater tax payer expense to porter the detainees, to the hospital, to court, to their famalies for visitation etc... As well, people arn't going to move to Springhill if they already live in Amherst because the jail moved. They will just commute. Since a jail is government funded, its not a boost to the economy, if anything its a tax drain. Either way, people in Springhill are still going to go to walmart or superstore, or canadian tire in Amherst to spend their paycheck. Aside from the free land Springhill is offering, they really don't bring much more to the table. People will say about the free heat etc.. However a new facility should be buit as efficient as possible and environmentally friendly.
    Its is kinda of foolish really, If Moncton were building a new jail, would they put it in Memramcook? There is something going on behind the scenes here, and i'm sure the legal council will file an injunction to delay or stop the construction in Springhill as long as they can. Again, I do understand why the people of Springhill want it, but its not for the right reasons.

  • Enough is Enough
    January 18, 2010 - 11:20

    much of this travel from jail to court will not be necessary when video facilaties are used . they are going to be implemented in Burnside to cut costs , reduce the chance of escapes , and eleminate mistaken releases ... the length of time of travel from Burnside to Spring Garden is comparable equally to that between Springhill and Amherst .....if the PC Gov goes down this spring the Libs or Ndp will no doubt not come under the influence of Murray LOL so expect an Amherst solution

  • Doug
    January 18, 2010 - 11:20

    I got a solution why dont they the goverment just get a big double decker bus with steel bars and have a 24 hour court.All in all you the people will still be paying for this no matter where they put this new jail.The one in Amherst you can use a plastic spoon to dig through the brick its that ancient.Build it where ever,, both places have a case for it,, be it Amherst or the Hill.But the bottom line is you will still have to pay for it lawyers too.

  • JD
    January 18, 2010 - 11:17

    So lets get this straight that the lawyers in Amherst are worried about cost expenses. What about the lawyers that work out of other areas i.e. Springhill. They always have to travel as well.....So why don't we let this rest, Springhill is 20 mins from Amherst, NOT 3 HOURS. People in Amherst never complained when buisness moved from Springhill to Amherst and this isn't even a business. Why don't we let Halifax figure out where it is going to go then everyone in Amherst can yell and scream cause they lost a jail.....

  • Fight the Power
    January 18, 2010 - 11:17

    This comment has been removed by a moderator.

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 11:15

    I have to disagree with Ms Hillson. Moving the facility to Springhill will not have the affect she describes. I'd argue it will create greater savings and efficiencies. There are two types of people in the Provincial System, those on remand (no trial not found guilty) and those serving time for other matters. Most advice can be given while the Offender/Accused is in cells at the Amherst Court House.

    Most advice is given while the offender/accused is in cells at the Courthouse. Its highly doubtful the placement of the correctional facility in Springhill will affect much. She fails to mention those who are serving Federal time and are in Springhill Pen as opposed to the Amherst Provincial Jail. No lawyers are complaining about that.

  • Troy
    January 18, 2010 - 11:14

    That a boy douggie,,,either way,,it gives a reason for complaining,,and that gives em something to do!!

  • JD
    January 18, 2010 - 11:12

    How about no new jail they just build a new one in Truro. Which has been talked about and both towns lose.....PPl are whinning about a 20 min drive how about an hour both ways...The lawyers should enjoy that......

  • Serenity
    January 18, 2010 - 11:09

    People, the law association is not making an issue about the inconvenience of the lawyers having to drive anywhere! It's the associated costs with the inmates having to be shepherded around to six different places when their court case is coming up that they are referring to.
    It's similar to when health-care decisions are made and the doctors/nurses are the last to be consulted when decisions are being made.

  • JD
    January 18, 2010 - 11:08

    I must say that I am tired of hearing about the transportation costs How many times does if have to be said that this province pays for the cost of moving youth back and forth from Waterville on a regular basis if not a daily one. They move inmates from the federal pen on a daily basis. So costs on this are a joke. We pay it now!!!
    As for saying Springhill should pay for the extra cost of it, then Amherst should pay the heating bill if it stays there. Cause there won't be much of a heating cooling bill if it is put in Springhill. The costs will off set each other in the end. Plus the heating bill would be rather large for a jail built on 25 acres. It won't be the size of the one in Amherst now it will be triple the size at least.

  • Jack
    January 18, 2010 - 11:05

    Troy, most of your comments are ill informed, and this one above is a good example. Theres not one single lawyer in Amherst driving a Lexus or a Mercedes, Cadillac, Lincoln, or anything resembling a luxury car.

    Anyway, if you knew anything about lawyers, you'd know that any travel they do, isn't going to be for free. What did you think they were going to travel to Springhill on someone else's dime?

    Get real.

  • kim
    January 18, 2010 - 11:03

    I wish I could grasp what the big deal is, you know the real reason for not wanting a jail anywhere other than Amherst! Are we all not Cumberland County? I am thinking a 20 min drive is not such a big deal. We all have to sacrifice things sometimes. People that live in Springhill do it all the time. Focus on bigger issues like why do some children not receive the education that they are entitled to? Children who can't read or write are not entitled to some Educational Assistance but children who act out in class are, hmmmm, now there is something to be worried about!!

  • Guy
    January 18, 2010 - 11:01

    How about the Conservatives in Halifax sending a message to Ernie Fage. Best way to get rid of him, make the majority of his supporters think he;s not doing anything for them.
    Just a thought.

  • Mad Mac
    January 18, 2010 - 10:59

    Mr. Thompsom you don t live in Nova Scotia so why don t you look after the Victoria, B.C. area and we will look after Nova Scotia. Tour just like the wife who drives from the back seat or the Husband who cooks from the living room. If you want a voice move here. As for me I agree with the lawyers.

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 10:57

    hmmm centralized justice system? Jails/Pens in Springhill and Courts in Amherst. It will all be a mess? 10X times worse? It all sounds so very alarmist and so very wrong. 20 odd kilometres and its the end of the world? Burnside is even further to the Courts on the Halifax side.

    I feel for the lawyers in Amherst who will now have to drive (if they wish to see an inmate which they have to do in any event for those at the Pen) instead of walking across the street but the Courts and the Correctional Facility will never be in the same spot. Even if placed in Amherst it will undoubtedly be on the outskirts of town and will require transportation along with the poor lawyers who would hten have to drive in stead of walk.

    Moving the facility will change things but not for the worse.

  • Concerned
    January 18, 2010 - 10:53

    The jail service in HRM is located in Burnside Industrial Park,a good half hours drive through city traffic to resources needed to support such a facility.If you look at what the Barristers Association is saying is needed re location for a jail ,the HRM facility would no doubt have been built on Barrington Street.Great thinking lawyers.Remind me to go elsewhere if I need legal assistance.

  • don't re-locate the jail
    January 18, 2010 - 10:52

    Troy, it would cost the tax payers more money since they would be reimbursed for their travel as high as .50cents/km. They would actually be making more money. I think they are just like the most of us and are just using common sense.

  • Enough is Enough
    January 18, 2010 - 10:48

    much of this travel from jail to court will not be necessary when video facilaties are used . they are going to be implemented in Burnside to cut costs , reduce the chance of escapes , and eleminate mistaken releases ... the length of time of travel from Burnside to Spring Garden is comparable equally to that between Springhill and Amherst .....if the PC Gov goes down this spring the Libs or Ndp will no doubt not come under the influence of Murray LOL so expect an Amherst solution

  • Common
    January 18, 2010 - 10:47

    Common sense would dictate that it be in close proximity to the court house in Amherst but unfortunately common sense doesn't seem to prevail when it comes to political decisions that more often than not are political motivated to appease someone somewhere or just good old backroom wheelin and dealin. Murray Scott should be ashamed of himself to so flagrantly flaunt his position in the present government.

  • R P
    January 18, 2010 - 10:43

    Let Springhill have it!

    Invariably, you'll get the families of those residing in the jail moving into communities. Lovely people some of them.

    Let them move to Springhill

  • Troy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:43

    Hey,,I agree Springhill is a great location for the jail,,and Yes I have made a few car payments for my lawyer( morgage payments too) over the years,,but my voice Mr, Mad Mac is heard round the world,,I don't need to move back there to have it heard!~!!

  • Troy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:42

    Hey if you listen to OLD jack Macdougall,,he believes that the lawyers wouldn't travel on anybody elses dime!!!lol More like they wouldn't travell a mile unless it was paid for,,I know that they won't lift a finger unless they are getting an exorbent amount of $$$ first. Travel or no travel,,you can bet they don't pay a cent of it.

  • Dennis
    January 18, 2010 - 10:41

    Sorry to disappoint you Bob but ask anyone at the correctional centre how many times people are shuffled back and forth to provicial court and how often Lawyers are visiting and you'll find out how much this will cost the taxpayer. Sure, the province pays for it but the bill ulitimately gets paid by the taxpayer. Part of the problem with things today is trying to cram things through the Amherst court house. Things get backlogged because inmates are busy talking to lawyers when they should be in front of the judge. Without a centralized justice system, things will be in a mess and the cost of transporting people for remands, court, interviews and etc is just going to skyrocket. At times the Sherrif's dept is already overwhelmed with transports and transfers, it will be 10x worse should the Correctional Centre go to Springhill...

    Youth and female prisoners are getting shipped back and forth every day because of another problem which a new centre in Springhill will not solve - The correctional centre will only house male inmates and any females or youths have to be shipped elsewhere, even if they are only on an overnight remand. This means that a 9:30am court appearance gets pushed to a 1:30 court appearance.

    Oh yeah, inmates in Springhill Penn likely do not utilize the services of legal aid as much on a day by day basis, unless they have pending charges. Their rights as guarenteed under the charter are a little different as those on remand or awaiting court appearances on new charges.

    Bottom line is that this is another example of a political decision that has absolutely no merit or shred of common sense.

  • Troy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37

    Well The only reason I see that the lawyers would oppose the relocation of the jail is that it might cost them more $$$$ to drive there to see their clients,,,and maybe they could only afford a lexus now instead of the mercedes that they had their hearts set on.,,,

  • Doug
    January 18, 2010 - 10:36

    Let them put it where they want,, who cares about all this and that where ever they put the new jail. People will still complain about the location.The commutes to hospitals or court they have a court in springhill one in amherst and hospitals too so whatever,, you will still get taxed it doesnt matter where its at folks.All i read is whinning.Who really cares.

  • County Resident
    January 18, 2010 - 10:35

    Ok...enough about the Layers...Is anyone out there concerned at all about the costs involved in transporting inmates from a jail in Springhill to the court in Amherst...I don't live in either town...but I/we would end up paying more for this service...If the town of Springhill wants the new jail...maybe they should also absorb any new costs of placing it there.

  • Village
    January 18, 2010 - 10:31

    I agree with Jack on Mr. Thompson. Also he does know some about Lawyers over the years but not enough to know what they drive. Mr. Thompson catches my drift. Springhill is still a good location for the jail. Why should amherst have all the glory. It will help the economy in Springhill. I invite any business or jail to my town.

  • Troy
    January 18, 2010 - 10:29

    I like the double decker jail bus idea!!!! Now that makes sense,,seeing as it is usually the same 80% reoffenders,,they can just stay in the bus and the Judge can walk out to them in the parking lot every week and hand them their sentences!!!!