Saint John halfway house understaffed, union says after another offender walks away

The union representing parole officers says community correctional centres, like Parrtown in Saint John, are understaffed and need more federal funding. (Google)
Nicholas Dylan McNamara left the Parrtown Centre for the second time this year, police announced

CBC News · Posted: Nov 06, 2019 10:07 PM AT | Last Updated: November 6

For the second time this year, Nicholas Dylan McNamara, a 21-year-old man serving a federal sentence for armed robbery, has walked away from the Saint John halfway house where he’s supposed to reside.

McNamara is considered unlawfully at large after leaving the Parrtown Community Correctional Centre on Oct. 21, four days after his release from a federal penitentiary, according to Saint John police.

His time at Parrtown was two days shorter after his initial stay at the centre this winter. McNamara was released from prison on Feb. 28 and walked away on March 6. Police say he was located in Fredericton and sent back to jail.

The latest occurrence marks this sixth time the centre lost one of its residents in the past four months. Nicholas Dylan McNamara, a 21-year-old man serving a federal sentence for armed robbery, is unlawfully at large from the Parrtown Community Correctional Centre in Saint John. (Saint John Police Force/Submitted)

The string of disappearances shows a need for more funding in community correctional centres to improve supervision of offenders and reduce risks to the public, says the union representing parole officers. The Saint John Police Force asked for the public’s help in seeking two other parolees that walked away from the facility in early October.

Carol Osborne, regional vice-president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, said the ratio of parole officers to offenders at the Parrtown centre was one officer to eight parolees before federal cuts to Correctional Services Canada in 2014.

Since then, the supervisory ratio changed to one office to 13 parolees, she said. The Parrtown centre can house up to 26 residents.

Osborne said community correctional centres, like Parrtown, gets only six per cent of the CSC’s budget, but the centres look after 40 per cent of the people moving through the system.

‘They have conditions for a reason’

The centres need more funding, she said, “not only for our members, but other positions as well. For resourcing for mental health, for resourcing for health, in particular, for illnesses.”

“We need to have more of the funding maintained in the community so we can ensure the offenders are supervised appropriately and that we have the resources available,” she said.

The CSC did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

Carol Osborne, regional vice-president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, said budget cuts has reduced staffing at community correctional centres. (CBC)

Osborne said additional crime can occur when offenders go unlawfully at large, and that poses risks to public safety.

“They have conditions, and they have conditions for a reason,” she said. “They need to be, by law, supervised until the end of their sentence.”

The centres, which are designated minimum-security institutions, that house parolees on statutory release or long-term supervision orders, according to the CSC website.

Offenders released from federal penitentiaries arrive at the community correctional centres on parole and under certain conditions and a curfew during their time at the facility.

USJE RVP Carol Osborne was also interviewed on the same issue by:

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