The longstanding issues of overcrowded Saskatchewan prisons are not being resolved because of short-sighted decisions and unnecessary delays, says the union that represents corrections workers across the province.
The corrections camp at Besnard Lake near La Ronge will not be opened for another six months, and a new unit in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, scheduled to open earlier this year, will not be operational until the fall, and then it will only run at half-capacity. This is of increasing concern for the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU).
“We have a situation now where many of the centres are running at full capacity or are dealing with overcrowding,” says SGEU President Bob Bymoen. In some cases, the overflow areas, including the gym, have no washrooms or showers. “Crowded conditions lead to increased tensions and more violence,” adds Bymoen. “This is a safety issue for workers and inmates.”
Besnard Lake camp was closed last year due to a kitchen fire, but renovations are complete and there is no reason why it cannot open immediately, says Bymoen. The camp can accommodate up to 35 inmates and serves to help transition offenders from the correctional centre to the community. SGEU was recently notified that the camp opening will be postponed for another six months.
The new unit in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre was slated to open in early 2015, but due to a government hiring freeze, that date was pushed back to April. Following the provincial budget, SGEU learned that the unit will not be opened until October, and even then it will only utilize 50 per cent of the new space in the facility.
“We have been raising concerns about the increased risk of violence as a result of overcrowding for years. We urge government to act immediately to open Besnard Lake camp and expedite the use of additional space made available by the new unit in Prince Albert,” Bymoen says. “It is a safety issue and, it could very well be an issue of life and death.”
For more information, contact: