Harbour Grace councillor wants penitentiary outside St. John's

Melissa Jenkins
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Hayward Blake adamant rural NL is the right choice for new prison

One municipal leader in Harbour Grace is speaking out against St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe’s idea that a penal institution get constructed in St. John’s.

Harbour Grace Coun. Hayward Blake would like to see the province's new penitentiary built outside of St. John's.

Coun. Hayward Blake emailed The Compass this morning (Feb. 19) to voice his opinions and beliefs that the new penitentiary the provincial government has confirmed is gonig to built should be built in Harbour Grace, or at least outside the greater St. John’s area.

The current penitentiary — Her Majesty Penitentiary — in St. John’s is over 150 years old, and is in need of replacement.

“I feel that the location of the new penitentiary could be an opportunity for the province to create economic development outside the City of St. John’s. With all due respect to the mayor of St. Johns, the new penitentiary should be located anywhere but (there),” the email from Blake read.

Harbour Grace was on a short list in 2008 with St. John’s and Stephenville. Senator Fabian Manning, who was the region’s MP at that time, and former federal public safety minister Stockwell Day visited the province on an exploratory visit to determine possible sites for a prison.

That visit was federal. The provincial government has now announced if it doesn’t get funding from the federal government, it will go ahead and build it without.

The proposed locations may no longer be front-runners, and the penitentiary could be built in a place that was not initially being considered.

Blake, who is a former educator, is insistent that growth be considered for outside the greater St. John’s area, and Harbour Grace would be ideal. He argued St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe is incorrect to believe St. John’s is the only viable option.

“I can list the advantages of Harbour Grace, and they are: a new Addictions Centre, the Splash Centre, a nearby hospital and long term health care facility, state of the art fire brigades, an excellent education system, a marine services centre, a marina, hotels, shopping, recreation, a tremendous infrastructure all along the Baccalieu Trail, and, dare I say it, proximity to St. John’s,” the email said.

But Blake is not impartial to the penitentiary going in another rural community, suggesting municipalities such as Placentia, Clarenville, Bishop’s Falls, Corner Brook and Stephenville could also be viable options. He believes it’s a benefit to wherever it is built.

“The penitentiary will not benefit just one town, but an entire region. The economic activity that such a facility will generate would be long term and make any of (those) places… sustainable for the long term,” the email continued.

Blake is calling on all municipal leaders to “make this an issue.”

He would like to see the Conception Bay North Joint Council lobby for the penitentiary to go in its region, but also believes other councils and joint councils should be doing the same.

“This is an opportunity for the government to invest in a part of the province other than St. John’s. Invest in a region of the province that needs the stimulus that the penitentiary will provide to a region,” he wrote.

Blake believes the investment would be essential to the upkeep of some municipalities, which may not be flourishing as they once have.

“An investment of this magnitude in any region outside of metropolitan St. John’s would be a “game changer” for that particular region and ensure viability of the town(s) well into the future. The location of the penitentiary is just too important to the economic viability of other areas of the province, to become just another project for the city of St. John’s,” the email concludes.


Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • neil
    February 20, 2014 - 13:05

    I don't think that would work at all. They talk about economic spin off but you would only have a couple hundred workers commuting from St. John's to Hr. Grace every day. If they think this will generate activity in the town, they are sadly mistaken. You also have to look at services and location. You would have countless prisoners travelling back and forth to St. John's everyday for court related stuff and not to mention medical resources. I live in CBN but think the new pen should be close to the services of the big city. Only makes sense here

  • taxpayer
    February 20, 2014 - 09:03

    I'm sure the federal government done its due diligence when it selected Hr. Grace as the site of a federal prison back in the 80's, if it was a good spot for a federal prison back then why wouldn't it be a good spot for a provincial prison now? The new prison won't be "run" by a town, but rather be operated by the provincial goverment. I believe the construction of a modern sports complex we can be proud of and a new addictions centre will be a positive turning point for the town. Other towns would jump at the chance to receive government funding for these facilities. I think the new council will overcome its early struggles and prove the naysayers wrong who are waiting for it to implode.

    • John Austin
      February 21, 2014 - 11:53

      Due diligence? The location was in a Liberal constituency. The consideration of the prison probably disappeared when they realized there would never be a CPC candidate elected in any rural NL ridings. The lack of funding for a new prison is probably related to Harper's NL goose-egg.

  • Rodney
    February 19, 2014 - 20:13

    I would have to disagree that Harbour Grace be a suitable place for a new penitentiary. The new pen needs to be relatively close to the court house, hospitals, and a police tactical team. I agree that it shouldn't be downtown st. john's but i think on the outskirts of st. john's would be ideal. Just look at what has been going on there. Riots break out and RNC gets called in to assist and inmates need to be taken to hospital for assessment and treatment. If it was in Harbour Grace, police officers from St. John's would need to respond and inmates would go to carbonear hospital and possibly onto HSC. Do you really want a 1hr response time for the RNC tactical team? Do you really want inmates filling up carbonear emergency (cause face it, its not that big) and do you really want inmates being transported over the highway for medical care at HSC or transports to the court case? Plus, think about the families of the employees. You all of a sudden expect all the employees to now drive an hour plus ( on a good day) to get to and from work? These people have a stressful enough job that more stress doesn't need to be inflickted on them. Anyways, just my opinion. Not that it matters.

  • Anywhere but Hr. Grace
    February 19, 2014 - 13:54

    After everything that went down in Hr. Grace the last few months, a penitentiary is the last thing they need built there, criminals would be running around everywhere. If they're not responsible enough to run a stadium, it's very unlikely they would be able to run a facility such as this.

  • Wayne Forward
    February 19, 2014 - 11:26

    I support your point of view 100 % Hayward. Now if only Government would view it that way and make the right decision.