New Brunswick

'Inhumane and dangerous': Weekend inmates share solitary cells

The New Brunswick Department of Justice and Public Safety has confirmed inmates serving weekend sentences are being double-bunked in solitary confinement cells at the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre.

Union representing jail guards says another 22-cell unit is left vacant as cost-saving measure

CUPE representative Mike Davidson says it's a common practice for inmates to be double-bunked in cells made for one person in some New Brunswick jails. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Department of Justice and Public Safety has confirmed inmates serving weekend sentences are being double-bunked in solitary confinement cells at the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre.

The unit is referred to as "the hole" by inmates.

The national representative for the union representing correctional staff says while there, those serving sentences for minor offences live by the rules of the unit, locked in their tiny cells 23.5 hours a day.

CUPE's Mike Davidson says the arrangement is "inhumane and dangerous" and is being done while 22 nearby cells, an entire unit at the jail, are deliberately left vacant as a cost-saving measure.

They pretty much step all over the bed of the other inmate lying on the floor.- Mike Davidson, CUPE

Davidson says while in segregation one inmate is made to sleep on a mattress on the floor of the cell while the other one sleeps on the bed.

"The cell is extremely small, so if an inmate has to get up in the middle of the night to use the washroom then, of course, there's not much room, they pretty much step all over the bed of the other inmate lying on the floor."

Happened 6 times

The union representing guards says 22 cells at the Saint John Regional Correction Centre have been deliberately left vacant as a cost-saving measure. (CBC)
Paul Bradley, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Public Safety says double-bunking in the segregation unit has occurred six times in the past six months.

"Although it is not normal practice to house intermittent offenders in the segregation area; in exceptional circumstances, such as over-capacity situations, these offenders may be placed in the segregation area," said Bradley.

Bradley refused to confirm a unit at the jail is vacant, citing "safety and security reasons."

Common practice, says union

Davidson says it is common practice around the province to double-bunk inmates in cells made for one person.

He says it can lead to agitation and fighting, and is dangerous not just to the inmates but to correctional staff.

He says jails in Madawaska, Miramichi, and Dalhousie all have "regular vacant units."

Ombud aware

New Brunswick Ombud, Charles Murray is charged with investigating complaints about the provincial justice system.

He says he is aware of the issue.

But Murray says he cannot say if he is investigating, and can only comment if an investigation is completed.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now