Iqaluit jail problems due to overcrowding, says warden
Warden says they are taking steps to crack down on arson
Nunavut Justice officials say they are taking steps to crack down on arson and eliminate overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit.
There have been four fire incidents since May 2010. In three cases, inmates are believed to be responsible.
Raymond Fast arrived as the new warden of the Baffin Correctional Centre in October. He said most problems at the rundown jail can be traced directly to the severe overcrowding.
"Basically it leads to what we had in November," said Fast, referring to when inmates set two separate fires inside the jail.
The jail had to be evacuated.
Since then, Fast said there has been a crackdown on items like lighters.
"We have curtailed or put higher security on visits that inmates are allowed, and we have increased our perimeter searches for people dropping contraband off around the correctional centre."
CBC News recently reported that an April 2012 inspection found dozens of fire code problems at the facility. Fast said many of the violations have been addressed, but others persist.
"It requires some minor construction work and that's virtually impossible to do with the overcrowding that we've got."
Officials are banking on what they call the ‘Emergency Overcrowding Relief Structure’ to alleviate some of the pressure. They are constructing a new building across from the Baffin Correctional Centre with room for 50 inmates. Officials had said it would be a temporary jail, but it will now be a permanent addition.
Chris Stewart handles building projects for the Department of Justice.
"Our current projections, pending final funding approval, is if we start building this summer we could be open by April 2014."
That project could cost up to $15 million.