Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dauphin facility to help ease overcrowding in jails

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The province will replace the 100-year-old Dauphin Correctional Centre as part of a larger plan to address overcrowding in Manitoba's jails, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Friday.

"We want to give people in our correctional centres all the tools that we can, so that when they walk out of the correctional centre, there's less chance that we see them again in the justice system," he said.

The exact size and cost of the new facility haven't been determined, but planning is underway. It will have more cells than the old facility, Swan said.

The current Dauphin Correctional Centre is located on Main Street next to the town's courthouse and RCMP detachment.

It's a minimum-security facility originally built to handle about 50 men. More recently, it has been renovated to handle about 20 additional prisoners, including temporary holding units for young offenders and adult female offenders.

"The counts lately have been 90, sometimes pushing 100," Swan said.

Land for the new centre is being donated to the province by the City of Dauphin and the RM of Dauphin.

Swan said federal changes, including eliminating conditional sentences for certain offences and adding more mandatory minimums, mean more inmates in the provincial system.

Since 2008-09, there are nearly 600 more prisoners behind bars in provincial jails. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the average population nearly doubled to from 1,184 inmates to 2,214 inmates.

Manitoba's seven adult provincial jails combined have room for 1,492 people.

The new $79.5-million Women's Correctional Centre in Headingley and its 193 beds, opened this year, is also at capacity. Since 2004, the province has added 308 new beds to its jails, including another 160 at Milner Ridge and 40 more at The Pas Correctional Centre.

Swan added special enforcement units, like the Winnipeg police gang response and suppression plan, and a new warrant enforcement unit have also brought more offenders into the system. The warrant enforcement until has added, on average, about 100 inmates to correction counts.

Swan said the province will also look at improving video-conferencing in the north between courts in Thompson and holding facilities in The Pas to speed up the court process and reduce the number of prisoner transfers.

Bail supervision programs, such as an existing one run by the John Howard Society in Winnipeg, will also be increased so more offenders spend time in the community rather than in pretrial custody.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

 

Recommendations of the Adult Corrections Capacity Review Committee:

 

The recommendations cover buildings a new jail in Dauphin and other issues such as bail reform, gangs and treatment of mentally ill offenders:

1) The Dauphin Correctional Centre is well beyond its structural usefulness, and needs to be replaced.

2) The situation of those awaiting trial in the North especially in Thompson needs to be addressed.

3) A reduction in the use of remand custody should free up space for sentenced offenders given the possibility of an increased provincial custody population with the reduction in conditional sentences predicted as a result of Bill C-10. With proper management in the community of more of those awaiting trial, new beds should not be necessary if the number of sentenced offenders in custody increases.

4) We are not convinced that the approach of locking up on remand a large majority of those charged with offences is the best one to take. We are, however, convinced that it is the most expensive one. It is the committee's firm view that no expansion of prison beds for remand offenders should be undertaken unless and until all alternatives have been explored, including appropriate cost analysis.

These alternatives include community risk management, bail support and supervision and other similar programs along with methods for greater efficiency in the court process.

5) We recommend that Manitoba Justice re-examine the recommendations from the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry and the subsequent AJI implementation commission to see what may be done to assist in reducing the number of Aboriginal offenders in Manitoba Correctional Centres.

6) We cannot expect prisons to solve the problem of why there are more female and Aboriginal female offenders coming into the system. This requires a broader approach to the issues that are bringing increasing numbers of women, in particular Aboriginal women, into conflict with the law and into custody.

6) It is the view of the committee that the best strategy for dealing with gangs is to work to reduce the reasons for their existence in the first place. This would include addressing the factors of economic and social marginalization while providing opportunities for developing a sense of belonging to the wider society through community development, education and job training. These are complex issues and those which imprisonment will not resolve nor is it correct in any sense to expect it would.

8) There is a need for other government departments and agencies that deal with our mentally ill offenders such as Manitoba Health, Manitoba Family Services and Housing, to work with Manitoba Justice and the Canadian Mental Health Association/Manitoba branch to develop an integrated approach to community based service delivery for mentally ill offenders.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 A5

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