April 10, 2020

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Crowded jails a concern: Tories

Lead to high number of contraband-item seizures

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/5/2015 (1785 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THERE have been about 850 seizures of contraband items from inmates in provincial jails over the last two years, sparking concern about the effects of overcrowding at the institutions.

Progressive Conservative justice critic Kelvin Goertzen raised the matter in the legislature Wednesday.

He said the large number of seizures -- contraband can include anything from liquor and weapons to tattoo needles, explosives and tobacco -- are a result of overcrowding and pose a safety concern.

The Conservatives filed a freedom-of-information request to obtain the number of seizures for the past two years. In 2013, there were 430 seizures from seven provincial jails, while last year there were 418.

Goertzen noted the numbers have been consistent for the past couple of years.

Manitoba's auditor general said in a report last year the province's jails are operating at 126 per cent capacity, with Headingley and Milner Ridge bursting at the seams.

Goertzen said the province could make a big dent in the overcrowding problem by doing a better job of preventing repeat offenders.

"If you can reduce recidivism then obviously it takes the pressure off the jail system. We haven't seen any meaningful effort to reduce recidivism in the province of Manitoba," he said.

Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh said while contraband is "always a serious concern," the situation has not grown worse over the years.

He said there is no link between the amount of contraband seized in provincial jails and overcrowding.

"It's been relatively stable over time. It involves a very small percentage of the inmate population," Mackintosh said.

He said corrections staff tell him weapons do not make up a significant percentage of contraband items, which can include anything an inmate is not allowed to have. Some of the more common items, he said, include cellphones, tobacco, liquor and even too many bedsheets.

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