The chair of a local citizens’ advisory committee is inviting members of Tantramar Town Council and the public to tour Dorchester Penitentiary.
Susan Amos extended the invitation during council’s regular meeting earlier this month.
She said the tour is planned as part of “awareness day” events at the prison her committee is organizing that will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8th.
Amos also informed council about the role of the advisory committees that were initiated in the 1970s to serve as a bridge between federal prisons and nearby communities.
“Simply put, we are the eyes and the ears of the public,” she told council during her online presentation.
“We exist so that someone outside of the system knows what’s going on inside.”
She went on to explain that the advisory committees are independent of Correctional Service Canada, the federal department that manages prisons and supervises offenders out on conditional release.
She said the committees meet with both prison staff and inmates.
“We discuss issues with offenders and with staff and sometimes with the public and we also provide advice, information, suggestions, recommendations mostly to the senior management.”
Amos explained that the local penitentiary is now known as Dorchester Complex with more than 400 inmates and a staff of about 600 making it one of the largest employers in Tantramar.
The complex includes both medium and minimum security sections as well as a hospital and healing centre that provides mental health services.
“We have access to all of the institution and we also have access to every staff person and every offender,” she said.
“The meetings that we have with staff or with offenders are confidential,” she added.
“We are independent and we’re impartial,” Amos said.
“We don’t take sides. We don’t advocate for either the staff or the inmates.”
Amos described what members of council and the public will see and hear if they join the “awareness day” tour on November 7th.
“You’ll see where the inmates live, where they go to school and learn trades as well as their recreational and medical facilities.”
She added that after lunch, participants will hear from staff including the warden in charge of the prison, the chaplain, a psychologist, security staff and perhaps the chair of one of the inmate committees.
“You may even get to meet the dog handler with his trusty canine partner who helps to keep drugs out of the institution.”
Amos suggested that anyone who wants to participate in the tour and awareness day events from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 8th, should e-mail Jerry Hicks: email@example.com.
For more information on Dorchester Penitentiary, click here.
To read more about Citizen Advisory Committees, click here.