In 1989, there was little doubt the community needed a new jail to replace the dilapidated Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The only thing lacking was political will.
As a stopgap, the government of the day built a new low-security facility in Teslin to ease pressure on the Whitehorse facility.
The idea was to decentralize a few government jobs and services to rural Yukon.
It didn’t work.
The community balked. It didn’t want a jail. The facility was put in mothballs.
Today it is used as a dorm for visiting hockey teams.
The Whitehorse Correctional Facility fell into further disrepair. Successive reports recommended it be replaced.
Successive governments refused to act.
But in 2000, the Yukon government started talking with First Nations and the public about building a new jail.
That year, the Liberal government spent $217,000 researching and planning the facility. Architectural plans were drawn up.
In 2001, Justice spent $971,000 beginning construction of the new facility.
In 2002, it spent another $1.12 million.
That same year, the Yukon Party government was elected.
A jail was not one of the new government’s priorities and the project was deep-sixed.
The $2.3 million invested in the project to date was wasted, er, written off.
The government started again.
In 2002-03 it spent $88,000 renovating the old jail.
In 2003-04, the government spent another $164,000 patching holes, replacing mortar and doors and rewiring electrical conduits in its rundown building, which was so bad the Yukon’s fire marshal had threatened to condemn it.
In 2004-05, the government pumped another $1 million into the money pit.
It estimates it will spend another $161,000 keeping the grungy facility afloat this fiscal year.
It is also planning to spend $633,000 on correction reform.
The total spent since work began on a new jail in 2000: $4.35 million.
What has the Yukon got to show for it? A hole in the ground and an 18-page report called the Correctional Redevelopment Strategic Plan, dated December 8, but released last week.
It identifies two goals.
First, implementing its recommendations to improve correction programs to victims, offenders and community members.
Second, to improve the correctional system.
That will involve writing “vision,” “mission” and “value” statements, staging “workshops,” drafting “recruitment and retention strategies,” “training models,” “recruitment and orientation strategies,” a “communication and citizen engagement plan” and an “offender management system.”
As well, it will be pulling together “comprehensive risk/needs assessment tools” and talking to communities to develop a “capacity building plan.”
And, eventually, the government will build a new jail.
Sometime within this government’s mandate, which runs out in the fall of 2011, according to Bob Riches, assistant deputy minister of Justice.
The inmates and jail guards currently spending their days locked up together in Third World conditions can hardly wait. (RM)