City closed transition home for female inmates

After almost a year in jail, Kerry Nolan is worried about getting out. “People look at me as a violent criminal,” she said on Thursday.

After almost a year in jail, Kerry Nolan is worried about getting out.

“People look at me as a violent criminal,” she said on Thursday.

“And it’ll be a lot of adjustment for me and the kids.”

Moving from the jail to a transition home would be ideal, she said.

But the territory doesn’t have a transition home for female inmates.

In June 2006, women were no longer allowed to finish their sentencing at the territory’s Adult Resource Centre.

Four months later, Correctional Services opened a two-bed private home placement in Porter Creek.

Unlike the ARC, which has 24-hour supervision, “this was in somebody’s home, almost like a group home,” said Sharon Hickey, director of Community and Correctional Services.

“Private home placements are done in most jurisdictions,” she added.

In March, the city shut it down.

“It didn’t fit the zoning,” said city planning manager Mike Gau.

Group homes are allowed, he said.

“Because in group homes (the children) are there by their choice.

“They’re not being locked in or directly monitored in the same fashion, whereas this building had special locks on the windows and things like that.”

The only modifications to the placement home were a sensor on the door to indicate when people were coming and going and an intercom, said Justice spokesperson Chris Beacom.

Before it became a private home placement it housed people with disabilities, he added.

The private home placement is not a lock-up, said Hickey.

“If these people are able to be in the community, they’re not under house arrest,” she said.

“Either you’re able to be in the community, or you’re not.”

As with a group home, there were curfews and rules that needed to be followed, she added.

In group homes, children or young adults are supervised in a home setting, said Gau.

“It’s care versus judicial placement,” he said.

“So they became part of the family in some regards and it looks like they were having a guest from the outside — that is what the zoning’s all about.”

But the private home placement upset some neighbours, said Gau.

“We received complaints, and that’s how it was brought to our attention.

“So we told Yukon government that use wasn’t allowed.

“They weren’t necessarily using it as a home; they had rules to be there and therefore it went on to a more institutional use.”

However, the Children’s Receiving Home on Fifth Avenue also has curfews and rules that need to be followed.

“The charter requires you be least restrictive and most protective in your measure,” said Hickey.

“If we wanted to be most protective, nobody would ever get out of jail, but that’s not how it works.”

The most successful ways to reintegrate people is with gradual support, she added.

The home was used briefly in September and November, was dormant in October and December, picked up in January, but use petered out again in March.

It just depends on the women in jail and who’s suitable for placement, said Hickey.

“But at any given time, there’s probably one or two women who could be managed in community who are not being managed in community,” she said.

If a private home placement existed, pre-sentence reports could be crafted accordingly, taking into account the treatment options available in the community, said Hickey.

“It would be a resource if it was available,” she said.

When it was running, women could have stayed in the placement home for up to three years.

And inmates who had access to their children could potentially have taken care of them at the home, said Hickey.

“When you do these (placements), everybody’s taking a chance on everybody,” she said.

“But if I didn’t believe people had an infinite potential for change, I wouldn’t be in the business.

“And I’ve been at it nearly 30 years.”

Hickey hopes to get another placement for female inmates up and running as soon as possible.

“The (Official Community Plan) review is coming up and we told them we would look into these types of uses,” said Gau.

“We’ve acknowledged there’s a need for them in our community, and some work has to be put in to determined where, as well as the public process to go along with that.”

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