N.W.T. corrections criticized for housing of female prisoners

The N.W.T.'s corrections system is under fire for the way it houses women waiting for a court date.

One female prisoner spent 9 days in RCMP cells

CBC North's Katherine Barton explains how the N.W.T. is under fire for housing women in RCMP cells temporarily. 4:09

The N.W.T.'s corrections system is under fire for the way it houses women waiting for a court date.

Territorial judge Garth Malakoe said he was upset to hear about one woman who spent nine days in RCMP holding cells while her lawyer tried to get her psychiatric help.

The cells are not meant for long-term stays. They have only a cement bench and a toilet, and there is no access to a proper bed, real meals, exercise or regular showers.

RCMP Sgt. Brad Kaeding said women spend more time in RCMP lockup than men because men can be sent to the North Slave Correctional Centre in Yellowknife.

RCMP Sgt. Brad Kaeding says the problem could be alleviated if the women's facility in Fort Smith, N.W.T., had video conferencing capabilities. (CBC)

Kaeding said logistical issues often mean women can't make the trip to the female facility in Fort Smith, N.W.T.

"For women from the North, they're often sent down south or put into units in men's prisons or in police lockup. And that's certainly discriminatory and breaches their charter rights," said Kim Pate from the Elizabeth Fry Society, which works with women and girls in the justice system.

Pate said women being held have not been found guilty, and are not often dangerous. She said a supervised apartment could be used to house women.

Kaeding said technology could help solve the problem.

"What would also make sense would be video conferencing. They have the capacity to do that from the North Slave Correctional Centre, so many of the male offenders aren't making the trip across town because they can appear in court by video. I don't believe there is that capacity from Fort Smith yet. That would improve logistical issues remarkably," he said.

Kaeding said there were similar problems when the young offender facility was in Inuvik, N.W.T. He believes it would make more sense to have a facility for women closer to the courts which are responsible for sentencing.