Around $10 million extra has been doled out to Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice to deal with more inmates in its jails.
As of last week, justice officials reported there were 2,026 people in custody—347 more than the amount that had been budgeted for the year.
"We can't put out a no vacancy sign and say that we're not going to take someone if the courts or police deem it necessary for us to take that individual," said ministry spokesperson Drew Wilby.
To cover the cost of the additional inmates, Wilby said $7.3 million is needed to pay overtime to corrections workers and to use contingency spaces. Another $2.6 million was doled out to pay for medical services and the cost of transportation, escorts and one-on-one supervisions.
Population of Saskatchewan jails
As of Dec. 4, 2017, justice officials say here's how many people are in custody:
Regina Correctional Facility: 696 (peak was 727)
Prince Albert Correctional Centre: 455 (peak 494)
Saskatoon Correctional Centre: 452 (peak 495)
Pine Grove Correctional Centre: 174 (peak 202)
White Birch: 12 (peak 19)
Wilby said it's a challenge to predict how many inmates will be in custody in a given year because the numbers fluctuate. However, he pointed to the province's remand rate for the reason behind the increase.
Half of inmates on remand
Currently, about half of the people in jail are on remand, which means they are awaiting a trial or sentencing.
Wilby said efforts are being made to address that, including an initiative in Saskatoon and Prince Albert that sees the Crown, defence, and potentially police, meet prior to a person's first appearance to ensure their paperwork is in order.
"To make sure that when people do show up at court and maybe it's a Monday morning for a first appearance that all the paperworks in place and that isn't just pushed off and adjourned to a later date."
Doing so allows the chance for other housing arrangements to be made besides a correctional centre, said Wilby.
He said the ministry has found bed space with the Salvation Army in both Regina and Saskatoon, adding they are also partnering with the John Howard Society.
Shortage of prosecutors
The ministry is also dealing with another problem: a shortage of Crown prosecutors in Regina.
"We need to try to recruit people and encourage people to come into those so we're able to begin these programs," to reduce the number of people in remand, said Wilby.
He added it's a competitive field when one considers the money to be made working for defence firms.
The ministry wouldn't provide the number of vacant prosecutor positions, but maintained criminal cases are not being affected.
In addition to the $10 million given to the ministry to deal with more inmates, another $1.2 million was paid so that 1,500 staff could be trained how to administer Naloxone to counter the effects of opioid overdoses, Wilby said.