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Drumheller prison made changes so inmates always available for court, judge told

Red Deer judge wanted explanation when prisoner not available for his court appearance last month

Drumheller Institution’s warden went before a Red Deer judge on Friday to explain why a prisoner was not available for court last month.

Red Deer provincial court Judge Gordon Yake was not happy that a man accused of drug trafficking could not be produced for his court appearance by a closed-circuit video link on Oct. 14, despite a judge’s order.

Yake said he was concerned because charges were stayed against an accused in a comparable situation and that decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Drumheller warden Tracey Farmer appeared before Yake in person Friday and agreed the prisoner should have been made available.

“Yes, it was unacceptable, your honour,” said Farmer, who added that they “had a breakdown in our process.”

Farmer said he took action as soon as he heard of the judge’s concerns.

Procedures have been changed so there are always staff on duty to allow prisoners to make their appearances when needed. The warden or other supervisors are to be alerted if there are any issues.

“We are ready to do court any time we need to,” said Farmer.

Yake said he was pleased that steps had been taken to stop the problem from arising again.

Complicating the situation was that Drumheller prison officials are wrestling with a COVID-19 outbreak, which has infected six staff so far.

The outbreak means there are additional restrictions on when inmates can leave their cells.

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