Baffin Correctional Centre 'appalling' and should be closed, report says

The current state of disrepair and overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit is "nothing short of appalling" and the facility needs to be shut down, according to a new report obtained by CBC News.

Facility cells 'overcrowded beyond acceptable standards of safe and humane custody'

(Office of the Correctional Investigator)

The current state of disrepair and overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit is "nothing short of appalling" and the facility needs to be shut down, according to a new report obtained by CBC News. 

The 34-page report was done by the Office of the Correctional Investigator. The territorial government initially refused to release the report to CBC News until Nunavut's information commissioner told it to release it in its entirety.

The report found that the facility, built in 1986, is "well past its life expectancy" and that "cells are overcrowded beyond acceptable standards of safe and humane custody."

The institution was initially designed for 41 minimum-security inmates. But when the Office of the Correctional Investigator conducted its visit and review, 106 inmates were housed there

Extensive list of deficiencies

The report cites what it calls an extensive list of deficiencies stemming from years of "overcrowding in a grossly inadequate infrastructure." These deficiencies include:

  • Cells are occupied by two, three and four times the occupancy rate originally intended when the facility was constructed.
  • Mould can be found throughout the cells.
  • Too few showers and toilets, which cannot be cleaned sufficiently due to the high usage. 
  • Lack of heat and running water.
  • Inmates complaining of smelly clothing even after it has been washed, and of having to share clothing, including socks and underwear.​
  • Filthy air vents obstructed with dust.
  • Shabby drywall and plywood walls that are a fire hazard.

"BCC is almost 30 years old and has not been used for what it was originally designed for," the report states. "The facility has been grossly overcrowded for many years, and it is now well past its life expectancy. The current state of disrepair and crowding are nothing short of appalling, and negatively impacts on both inmates and staff."

Plywood walls at the overcrowded Baffin Correctional Centre are a fire hazard, among many problems with the outdated facility. (Office of the Correctional Investigator)

The report lists other problems beyond the infrastructure and found that contrary to human rights standards those awaiting trial and presumed innocent are housed with convicts.

Guards lack the support to address the drugs and contraband common inside the facility, the report found. Inmates who temporarily leave are pressured to return with drugs or contraband and that those who don't are subject to threats and assaults.

Investigators also expressed concern with out-of-date suicide prevention practices, the use of straitjackets and overall lack of oversight.

They conclude the institution should be closed and replaced because it's not safe for staff or inmates.

'Past its best before date'

"The report confirms that BCC is past its best before date, and needs to be closed and replaced by a new facility or facilities. BCC physical infrastructure is not safe for either staff or inmates, and hinders the ability of [Nunavut] Corrections to fulfil its legal mandate of humane custody and rehabilitation."

Nunavut's Minister of Justice Paul Okalik said the territory has already completed minor renovations such as repairs to the fire alarm, patching up holes in the walls and improving air quality.

Okalik said a new jail is being built in Iqaluit to alleviate the overcrowding and some inmates have been moved to a facility in Rankin Inlet.

But when the new jail opens, Okalik said, the plan is to renovate the Baffin Correctional Centre.

"The current facility is still usable. We are currently working on improving the facility at this time."

As for the legislative, procedural and regulatory shortfalls, Okalik said he intends to introduce new legislation later this year.

With files from Alison Crawford


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