PSA: As an agency providing housing and support to those involved in the justice system—we are troubled by a response to homelessness that employed punitive strategies which were harmful and traumatizing.
On this Mothers Day Mirinda Bray and Ashley Avery of the Coverdale Courtwork society describe how the Family Justice Program supports women and mothers who are navigating the family courts through child protection and custody matters, and mothers who are provincially incarcerated or criminalized. “I needed some good news and for once I finally got it. I got help getting a place thanks to Barry House and learned about Coverdale. Now I have reunited with my son and am so grateful,” writes a participant.
As infection numbers in Nova Scotia reach record highs, prisoner advocates are asking that the province vaccinate incarcerated individuals and correctional staff within the provincial prison system. This demand is even more urgent as the province is considering another mass release similar to the one early on during the pandemic.
Media release from the East COast Prison Justice Society: We are alarmed to learn that there has been no vaccination rollout either for provincial prisoners or correctional staff, despite prisons being obvious vectors of community and institutional co-transmission, and the heightened vulnerability & disproportionate numbers of Indigenous, racialized, and disabled prisoners.
Coverdale Courtwork Society has announced that it will no longer be able to pay for hotel rooms for criminalized women and trans individuals who are exiting jails or who face homelessness for other reasons. That makes Coverdale yet another NGO which is no longer able to provide this crucial service to the population it serves. Just two days ago we reported that economic realities and a lack of provincial support were forcing Adsum for Women and Children to make a similar decision.
When COVID-19 hit, Nova Scotia’s provincial prisoner population was reduced by 41 percent in just a few months. The women’s unit at Central Nova was down to just seven prisoners. Now all that work has been undone, write Ashley Avery and Emma Halpern.
As soon as COVID-19 spread to North America, health professionals, scholars and activists expected widespread outbreaks in prisons. Advocates pleaded for governments to release prisoners. One province, Nova Scotia, heeded this call.
The joint housing initiative between John Howard, Elizabeth Fry Mainland and Coverdale that has supported 34 people who have exited jail during the pandemic is being shut down as of June 30 as the federal funding has ended. Despite the groups’ best efforts we have received no commitment from the provincial government. Sara Tessier is a peer support worker for the project and has penned this op/ed.
Three community-based organizations serving criminalized people in Nova Scotia have developed and launched a pilot housing project to support people exiting jail during the global pandemic Covid-19.