Conditions at the jail are criminal.
It is hurting society as much as the felons.
We’ll tell you why. First, some background.
Just last week, correctional officers crammed nine women into a space as big as most people’s kitchens and dining rooms.
The room is dirty, tiles are missing and the underlay is black. There is mildew in the bathroom, of which there is just one.
The women, most of whom have issues of some sort or other, are stuck, cheek by jowl, in that tiny space at least 20 hours a day.
That, alone, is enough to drive a monk nuts.
There are few, if any programs for them to take advantage of.
This is far from ideal.
Last week, the women’s dorm was so crammed that guards were forced to place bunks in front of the emergency door.
It was blocked.
After that fact was published, fire officials visited the facility, according to a lawyer we know.
Women were moved, the doors cleared.
But what if a reporter hadn’t learned of the situation and published the fact?
Would the doors have been cleared?
What if there had been a fire?
Correctional officers and felons would have been at risk. There’s a good chance someone would have died.
Is this any way to run a prison?
Now, we know these aren’t nice folks (though to talk to them they are often more pleasant and thoughtful than you might think).
Still, our legal system has judged them and stuck them in prison.
For whatever reasons — and there are often many — they have turned to crime.
They’ve ripped people off. Sold them drugs. Beat them.
They’ve done bad things.
They’re not supposed to be in the Hilton.
They’re not supposed to be in Romania either.
And here’s why society is worse off because of the Whitehorse jail: conditions at the facility are so bad that judges won’t allow inmates to serve their full sentences.
A felon beats someone to a pulp. The courts believe that person should be jailed for two years.
But they are being released to society early — often after only one year — because politicians have allowed the jail to fall into a state of repair so terrible that it should have been condemned.
Also, it is a drain on the public purse.
The government has spent millions repairing it over the last five years. And society has nothing to show for it.
Conditions are so bad that proper rehabilitation programs can’t be offered the inmates.
Does it make sense to jail our worst citizens in conditions most people wouldn’t tolerate in a zoo?
Upon release, do you think these people will function in society better? Or worse?
Of course, society might hold the inmates in contempt.
But what of the corrections officers?
Even if society has become so vindictive as to cage people in conditions that we wouldn’t tolerate for zoo animals, what of the civil servants who are caged alongside them?
Their work conditions are deplorable. Their health and safety are threatened every day.
Apparently, society is OK with that too.
And, because of that ambivalence, the government has done nothing.
Worse, because of that ambivalence, the government abandoned the fix that had been planned and started. It squandered millions in the process.
And then, for five years government has dithered and done nothing.
Politicians will now deflect any criticism, saying a new jail is being planned.
Excuse our skepticism, but recently the Yukon Party government promised a new school in Copper Ridge.
If the government is serious, it should dust off the correctional centre plans — bought with $1 million in 2001 — that it shelved in 2002.
It should build its prison.
It should begin immediately.
To do less hurts mainstream Yukon society and the people it jails — correctional officers and felons alike. (RM)