Horne pegs new prison at $67M

The new Whitehorse Correctional Centre will cost $67 million, says Justice Minister Marian Horne. She offered the figure in the legislature on Tuesday, after two days of prodding from opposition members.

The new Whitehorse Correctional Centre will cost $67 million, says Justice Minister Marian Horne.

She offered the figure in the legislature on Tuesday, after two days of prodding from opposition members.

It’s been known since last week that the new prison, scheduled for completion by late 2011, would cost more than $60 million after finance officials disclosed as much.

Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell derided the prison plan because it is more than double the cost of a previous Liberal project started eight years ago.

The work was stopped midstream by the Yukon Party government. Previous justice ministers cited the cost as one reason for abandoning the Liberal project.

“Talk about financial incompetence,” said Mitchell.

But Premier Dennis Fentie defended his new prison, which will include drug and alcohol treatment facilities for inmates, as “a whole new approach to incarceration.”

The Liberal plan was nothing more than a “warehouse” for inmates, he said.

Yukon’s recidivism rate exceeds 80 per cent, said Fentie. Drug and alcohol addiction is one of the major reasons why inmates commit future crimes, he said.

“This is an investment in overall treatment for the territory,” he said.

Programming available to inmates is inadequate, said Darius Elias, Liberal MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin.

During a recent Yukon court case, the accused asked the judge for a longer sentence so he would be sent to an Outside federal penitentiary, where he expected to receive better treatment.

“There is very little in terms of counselling or treatment that goes on in this particular facility. There is really nothing of a formal nature that goes on there,” Elias quoted the man’s lawyer as saying.

“This is a pretty extreme step for an individual to take. It says a lot about how bad the level of programming is,” said Elias.

But Horne insisted “we take very good care of the inmates in the correctional centre,” and “our inmates will come out of there rehabilitated into society.”

The prison offers a 12-step rehab program that uses the native medicine wheel, she said.

“We have an elders council,” said Horne. “We have talking circles, traditional crafts, individual counselling, drum-making, traditional parenting, solstice gatherings, and appropriate space is now available for First Nation programming. We have also renovated an existing program area to create a healing room.”

And a land-based treatment centre is being developed for First Nation residents, said Fentie.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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