N.S. justice officials defend monitoring of convicts on community sentences

Nova Scotia's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa on July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Representatives from Nova Scotia's Justice Department faced questioning Wednesday on why the province failed to oversee the company it hired to monitor convicts serving sentences in the community.

A report last week from the auditor general found that electronic surveillance protocols were often not followed and that some probation officers did not comply with corrections policies between 2019 and 2020.

NDP MLA and leadership candidate Claudia Chender asked director of correctional services Michael McAloney what led to the problems illustrated in the report.

McAloney seemed to dispute the report's findings, saying there is "extensive oversight" of community corrections officers and his office is "well aware of what's going on."

The correctional services director went on to say he thinks some of that might have been missed, in the auditor general's report.

The audit looked at 30 supervision alerts, which are generated when someone serving a community sentence violates conditions such as curfew or travel, and found that in two-thirds of cases, the company "did not follow protocol despite indicating they had done so."

Auditor general Kim Adair said last week the issues with community correctional services and lack of oversight by the Justice Department found in the report present a possible public safety risk to Nova Scotians.

The auditor did not name the company, but the Justice Department confirmed Jemtec Inc. is the province's electronic supervision service provider.

Senior probation officer Erik Nielson seemed to defend the company when Progressive Conservative MLA Dave Ritcey asked why its contract was extended until the end of 2023.

Nielson said, "there are other factors to consider other than just alert response or quality assurance." He said they also consider the availability of the company to provide equipment and access to training.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.