The government must move forward with plans to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, according to NDP Justice Critic Steve Cardiff.
The jail issue must be resolved, said Cardiff in a release last week, referring to a recent decision by Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale to give an inmate two-to-one credit for time served at the facility.
Veale’s decision was based on a lack of programming and professional treatment at the jail.
“What’s happened under this government’s watch?” asked Cardiff.
“Lots of talk and too little action, while staff and inmates deal with bad facilities and inadequate programs.”
Cardiff sees the recently announced $600,000 in proposed renovation work as government foot-dragging. It should be putting money towards the new facility.
Currently, it is planned to be completed by 2011.
“There’s no question that the correctional centre is old and it’s definitely time for it to be replaced,” said Phil Perrin, superintendent of the facility.
“But in the interim period, it’s important that we continue taking care of the inmates, and in order to do that we have to make some interim improvements.”
One planned improvement is the creation of more space for programs.
Right now, the only places at the centre where programs can be run are in a common area that also serves as a library, a small programming room and the mess hall.
More space is needed for rehabilitation programs to curb criminal behaviour.
The upcoming renovations will also address the lack of space for female inmates, said Perrin.
A wall will be knocked down and the room will be expanded into another area of the jail.
The renovations will be the last major improvements to the existing facility while corrections officers and inmates wait for the next centre to be built.
The government has committed to breaking ground on the new facility by next spring, said Cardiff.
But at this point there is no design for the new facility, which is expected to cost at least $25 million.
“I don’t think we’re too far off schedule,” said Perrin.
Recently focus groups made up of members from the community, corrections, First Nations, and Justice department assembled to look at the need for a new correctional centre.
“We’re looking at all the specific needs for the new facility and also national and local trends to try to plan for the future,” said Perrin.
Numbers of occupants in correctional facilities depend on a number of factors, but judging from trends Perrin expects the inmate population to continue to rise.
The planned facility will begin with one inmate per cell with the option to move to two, allowing the facility to double its population if need be.
“We’ve learned that it’s very expensive to make changes to an existing building,” said Perrin.
“So we want to do it right the first time.”