Manitoba

Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie closing due to falling incarceration numbers

The Manitoba government is closing the Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie after declining numbers of youth in custody led to the facility being less than 30 per cent occupied.

Manitoba is closing facilities with average of 45 per cent capacity over 5 years

A solitary confinement cell at Agassiz Youth Centre. (Submitted by Manitoba Justice)

The Manitoba government is closing the Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie after declining numbers of youth in custody led to the facility being less than 30 per cent occupied.

Manitoba has seen a significant decrease in the number of youth in custody since 2012, similar to other provinces in Canada, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said.

The closure of the facility will allow the province to increase capacity in northern Manitoba, Goertzen says.

"Because there aren't transitional facilities in the north, a lot of those youth serve their entire time at [the Manitoba Youth Centre in Winnipeg] or AYC and don't get the ability to go back into their communities and transition back into the community, which we know has better results," Goertzen said.

Goertzen is scheduled to announce more details about how the province will increase the youth incarceration capacity in northern Manitoba on Friday during a news conference at 12 p.m. at the offices of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

Agassiz Youth Centre will officially close on July 22.

After that, incarcerated youth in southern Manitoba will be held in the Manitoba Youth Centre, which has also been operating at less than 50 per cent capacity for several years, the province said.

There are currently fewer than 90 youth in custody in Manitoba, a decrease from over 300 a decade ago, but still more per capita than most provinces, the news release says. 

The Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie will close July 22. (Jill Coubrough/CBC )

The decline in youth incarceration numbers followed the enactment of the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act. Under the act, sentences prioritize rehabilitation over incarceration.

Manitoba still has three times more youth in custody than the national average.

"If the trend continues and we were the national average, we might have 30 or 40 youth in custody, and then we might be looking at a different model entirely," he said.

The change will affect around 109 justice department staff, as well as staff from other departments, Goertzen says.

The province will engage with staff, community members and other stakeholders in the coming weeks to decide the future of the site, the news release says.

It will also work with staff and the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union to find employees available work at other correctional facilities.

Once the youth centre closes, the site may be repurposed for the hospital, which the province announced last August.

Corrections

  • Agassiz Youth Centre will officially close on July 22. An incorrect date was published in an earlier version of this story.
    Mar 24, 2022 1:12 PM CT

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