WCC crowding harms women

As many as 10 women are crammed into a dorm that normally only houses six at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, say inmates.

As many as 10 women are crammed into a dorm that normally only houses six at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, say inmates.

Two other women are living in segregation, in small cells known in prison jargon as “the hole.”

They are there because they can’t get along with the other women in the women’s dorm and the correctional centre has nowhere else to put them.

 “We can hold 12 to 14 women in that living unit at any one time,” said Justice spokesperson Chris Ross.

“It’s flexible, we can move beds in and out as necessary.”

A week ago, management added two single beds to the women’s dorm to fit eight people, said an inmate who wanted to withhold her name for fear of repercussions from corrections staff.

On Monday, corrections management replaced these single beds with bunk beds.

“We already don’t have any space in here,” said another inmate who also asked for anonymity.

“And then to put two more in here — there’s not even supposed to be those two beds in here, but they seem to just put it in here anyways.”

The women are concerned that the extra inmates go against fire regulations and that at least one of the beds may block an escape route.

Officials simply move the bed when the fire marshal arrives. Then move it back, said inmates interviewed by the News.

The News was unable to reach the Yukon fire marshal, Marty Dobbin, for comment.

“We understand the issue of space,” said Ross.

“We are working on fixing it through our interim space plan and those changes will be completed by September at the latest.”

The renovations will give women inmates increased space, more washroom facilities and more recreational opportunities with a separate outdoor yard.

The dorm only has one small window and women are currently only allowed to get fresh air in the yard for one hour a day.

They can use the gym for half an hour.

The average sentence at the centre is 30 to 60 days, so the number of women changes all the time, said Ross.

“Women are separated, not because it’s full but because of incompatibility issues.”

However, a second women’s dorm will not be created as part of the interim space plan, so problems of incompatibility will probably continue.

“There’s lots of different kinds of people; it’s not like everybody’s going to like everybody,” said one inmate.

“It’s hard to be able to go off and just mind your own business.”

The correctional centre is expanding the women’s dorm last, say inmates.

“You would think they’d do it first because there’s not much space for the women,” said one inmate.

“You can put men anywhere in this building. I don’t understand why they never renovated this part first.”

The women say they only want to be treated equally.

“But we’re not — we’re only given one hour of fresh air a day, and a half an hour in the gym,” she said.

“We’re stuck in one tiny little dorm 22 hours a day — maybe even 24 for the woman that don’t go out — with 10 other women.

“And tension rises, personalities clash because it’s hard.”

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