Judge calls lack of programming at WCC “absolutely appalling”

Michael Nehass made a shiv and attacked a guard during his stay at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

Michael Nehass made a shiv and attacked a guard during his stay at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

The inmate’s bad behaviour should have been reflected in his sentencing.

But Justice Ron Veale gave Nehass a break.

 “When someone is misbehaving in an institution, he would only get a 1.5 credit (for his time served),” said Veale last week, during Nehass’ sentencing in Teslin.

“But in circumstances like this where there is no opportunity to take any programming — I find it absolutely appalling — I am not going to give him 1.5.

“I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him two times the credit.”

Veale turned to Nehass.

“I am not doing this because you behaved well,” he said.

“You behaved badly.

“But every institution in this country, and particularly in this territory, should have proper programming.

“There is absolutely no excuse for any institution not to have (it).

“And I think it is absolutely appalling that the government doesn’t have that programming in place.”

In a court ruling four years ago, Nehass was described as having a “very troubled upbringing involving many upheavals, including the death of his mother.”

With a history of substance abuse, violence and homelessness, Nehass is believed to suffer from “conduct disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” said the sentencing judge.

“In short, Mr. Nehass is a seriously disturbed youth in desperate need of treatment.

“However, at this point Mr. Nehass presents such a danger to himself and others that the only option is to provide the required treatment in a secure setting.”

But when Nehass eventually ended up back at the correctional centre, he didn’t get any treatment, said Veale.

“There is no core programming at the Whitehorse correctional institution at this time or during the time of incarceration prior to his sentence,” he said.

“And I find that absolutely appalling because your clan leaders make it very clear (Nehass) needs treatment — professional treatment.”

There is no core programming available for Nehass’ issues, like anger management, said his caseworker Kyle Keenan, who was a witness.

“And it doesn’t help a person like Nehass to be in an overcrowded (jail),” he said.

The correctional centre was built in the 1960s to house 40 inmates, said Keenan.

“Now there are upwards of 70 inmates — high 70s,” he said.

“It’s fair to say it’s overcrowded.”

The overcrowding isn’t as serious as the lack of programming, said inmate Thomas Corcoran on Tuesday.

The jail is getting $600,000 for renovations, he said.

“But they should allocated that money to new programming instead.”

Corcoran would like to see inmates offered training in the trades.

“It would give them working man’s pride,” he said.

“Right now, there’s no programming at all.”