Winnipeg Remand Centre well over capacity

The Winnipeg Remand Centre is bursting at the seams, with one of the highest number of inmates in the correctional facility's history.

The Winnipeg Remand Centre is bursting at the seams this week, with one of the highest number of inmates in the correctional facility's history.

As of Monday, there were 464 inmates inside the Remand Centre, which has a capacity of 289, provincial justice officials told CBC News.

Officials say the current number could be so high because about 100 people were admitted into the downtown Winnipeg facility over the weekend.

However, the Remand Centre has been consistently over capacity for years, with the average number of inmates rising from 329 in 2005 to 406 last year.

Crowding a provincewide problem

The situation is much the same across the province, according to the head of the union for jail guards.

MGEU president Lois Wales said the entire system has 836 more prisoners than beds.

"It's been overcrowded for years so, you know, even with the Remand. That's the new norm for the Remand … like, stack them like wood in a corner when, you know, there is no room," she told CBC News.

A total of 2,405 adults were in custody in Manitoba's correctional facilities as of Tuesday morning, according to the province's latest figures. Justice officials say the ideal capacity is 1,492.

In Brandon, 50 inmates are sleeping in the gym with three toilets and one shower, Wales said.

"[And] they've put in a 60-bed dorm at Milner [Ridge Correctional Centre, near Beausejour]. They've made renovations to almost all the jails," she said.

John Hutton, executive director of the John Howard Society in Manitoba, said his group has had to cut back on the number of inmates who can enrol in its literacy program at the Remand Centre.

"Overcrowding has an impact on the programming available because it just takes away space," Hutton said.

"Without that programming, your recidivism rates are going to go up."

The provincial government says it is building more jails to relieve the pressure.

Manitobans had an opportunity to have their say about overcrowding in jails on Tuesday evening, when the province's Corrections Capacity Review Committee hosted a public consultation meeting at the Canad Inns Polo Park.