Auditor General: N.W.T. jail spending should focus on illness, not OT
Auditor general identifies overtime, mental illness supports as major concerns in corrections report
Northwest Territories justice officials defended their record to territorial MLAs at a hearing Wednesday night, responding to a March corrections report by the Auditor General of Canada saying the department is failing to meet key responsibilities in its management of inmates.
MLAs are currently reviewing the report prepared by Auditor General Michael Ferguson, which identified numerous major concerns, including everything from the availability of rehabilitation programs to safety gaps at some facilities. Ferguson was also present at the review, fielding questions about the report from MLAs.
Ten new staff were hired at the North Slave Correctional Centre in order to reduce overtime. However, overtime costs at the jail rose by 59 per cent three years later, and during the 2012/2013 year, $1.5 million was paid out in overtime at the facility.
Ferguson said in his report that spending on overtime costs reduced resources available for other areas, such as programming.
Territorial deputy minister of justice Sylvia Haener says the department has brought that number under control, and overtime costs are down 29 per cent this year.
"I heard Mr. Ferguson reference the need to pay attention to things, to focus, to have accountabilities," she said. "That's an example of the kind of change that can be made by doing that.
"I don't think we're doing a bad job."
Mental illness supports major concern
This spring, Ferguson released reports on the corrections systems for all three territories. At the review hearing Wednesday, he said jails in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon have problems that are particular to each, but all are doing a bad job of dealing with inmates with mental illness.
"I think that's something that all correctional systems, including the federal correctional system, is really challenged to figure out how to manage that," he said. "I think most of these systems are not set up to manage mental health issues the way they need to be managed."
Ferguson said that a good start for the Northwest Territories would be to track the training each guard receives. In his review, he found that's not currently being done.
Officials from the department of justice said yesterday that they've made changes to address many of the problems identified in Ferguson's report.