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Certified criminals make up 28% of Headingley’s population

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Headingley Correctional Institution is one of two provincial prisons in the 
Headingley area.

WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Headingley Correctional Institution is one of two provincial prisons in the Headingley area. Photo Store Photo Store

Statistics Canada’s census figures for a community include prison populations within its borders.

In the case of Headingley, for which the head count came out at 3,215 in Stats Can’s 2011 survey, that number would have included about 730 individuals who then made their home at Headingley Gaol.

Thus the incarcerated crowd made up about 22% of the Headingley population at that time. Since then, the new women’s prison has come on stream with its 211
occupants and the number at the men’s facility has grown to 817.

With the ongoing influx of newcomers moving to Headingley of their own volition, the conventional population has also likely expanded by a hundred or so. The total population is now probably around 3,600.

Crunching these numbers we get 28% ne’er-do-wells in our midst.

That’s a pretty sizable presence of potential volatility in a small community.

But no one seems to mind.

Should we?

The men’s prison — properly known as Headingley Correctional Institution —houses "minimum, medium and maximum security" offenders. Eight hundred and seventeen of them are stuffed into a building that was meant for only 458.

Although opened only last year, the women’s facility, with a capacity of 190 inmates, is already 11% over quota.

Plus prison unrest in Headingley is not exactly a rarity.

Headingley Gaol recorded four revolts in the decade following its construction in 1930, and one more in each of the three decades up to 1970. It experienced further disturbances in 1973 and in 1981 and a major riot in 1996.

The 1996 outbreak lasted 24 hours. The RCMP and police dogs were brought in to help restore order, and about 70 firefighters were called upon to quell blazes set by the rioters. No one was killed and there were no escapes, but eight guards and 17 inmates were hospitalized with injuries, which included finger amputations and an attempted castration.

The gutted prison building took a year to rebuild at a cost of $10 million. In 2000, another $17 million was spent to enlarge the premises and improve control of high-risk inmates.

Incidents at the prison, some involving significant property damage, escapes and lockdowns, have continued to occur, though nothing approaching the intensity or scale of the 1996 ruckus.

With modern, efficient law-enforcement resources within ready availability, maybe concern about violence spilling over into your neighborhood from nearby prison facilities is unwarranted. Even from overcrowded prison facilities.

Maybe.

Bob Holloway is a community correspondent for Headingley.

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