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AJAs 2020 Finalists

A Glimpse Inside: A Day at Her Majesty's Penitentiary


Date Aired or Published January 11, 2020
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Independent
Name of Program:
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Location: St. John's, NL
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Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

This story started with a series of deaths in provincial corrections and follow-up reporting. Public records on past instances were not readily available (even a public inquiry report into a past death in custody for example). And news reports on HMP were typically referencing one or two incidents of violence or intimidation or drug-related offences as they happened, or included more general references to violence in the institution, with limited context on the overall frequency and severity of events. There was a need for more detail. The idea was to first better understand the institution's internal reporting system. After attempts through general questions, an access to information request in March 2019, with response in April 2019, produced detailed rules, procedures and standing orders, including identification of the types of reports to be filed by officers. Quarterly reporting- consolidating those individual reports- was not being done for the institution. But a separate access to information request, requiring to the end of the year to complete, produced hundreds of individual officer reports. The request covered a period with deaths at the institution, but did not reveal those specific events. They did offer broader context for conditions inside HMP, and offered a clear view of the backdrop for the next death, that of Jonathan Henoche. The Independent's story was published following Henoche's death, but before more recent charges against provincial correctional officers.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

Money wasn't a concern, only personal time. The access to information process began in March 2019 and continued through to the end of the year, with multiple queries about possible changes to the request. There was research, particularly at the end of 2019 (review of Citizens Representative reports, lockdown reports, drug cases). Interviews came together thereafter.

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