'A chance to think more about why they're here': Christmas comes to Nunavut jail
Minimum-security facility opens up inmates' visiting and calling hours for the holidays
For many, the holiday season is about being home with family, but that's not possible for inmates from across Nunavut at the Makigiarvik Correctional Centre in Iqaluit.
The minimum-security facility is sparsely decorated: a tree in the secured common area, some tinsel around the control desk that divides the north and south wings.
It's more of a reflection period for both the staff and the residents.- Henry Coman, deputy director of corrections in Nunavut
During the holidays, the atmosphere is more relaxed. Programs are put on hold, visiting and calling hours are more flexible, and correctional staff have calling cards to give away.
"It's more of a reflection period for both the staff and the residents," said Henry Coman, deputy director of corrections in Nunavut.
"It gives them a chance to think more about why they're here and to get a break from the routines that they're used to."
'I get homesick sometimes'
Curtis Kalaserk, from Rankin Inlet, is an inmate at the centre. He is scheduled to appear in court in February, facing accusations of dangerous and impaired driving of a motor vehicle.
"I get homesick sometimes, especially over the holidays, wanting to be with family and friends," he said. "But I did this to myself, so I've got no choice but to be here."
He recently transferred to Makigiarvik from the neighbouring Baffin Correctional Centre, which is infamous for being unsafe, unhealthy and overcrowded.
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"I'm happy to be at Makigiarvik," said Kalaserk.
On Thursday, many inmates were playing board games, cards and ping pong. On a bulletin board, some of the men signed up to participate in a competition of Inuit games.
On Christmas Day, inmates will receive chocolate and calling cards. The kitchen is also preparing a feast and thawing country food for inmates throughout the week.
Josie Takatak of Sanikiluaq is awaiting trial for murder charges.
"When I get pictures of my girlfriend and stepdaughters, every day I'm able to see them and it feels like I'm there with them," he said.
"Hopefully I'll be with them sometime. I don't know when, though."
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Makigiarvik is almost at capacity, with 42 inmates for 45 beds. Unlike the medium- and maximum-security units at Baffin Correctional Centre, the minimum-security centre sees a dozen inmates leave the centre during the day for "town crew" jobs in Iqaluit.
The centre has materials and an enclosed space outside available for carving. A number of programs for Inuit cultural skills, substance abuse and recovery programs are offered at both correctional centres.
This season, Takatak has a few holiday wishes to share: "Stay out of trouble, be a good person, drink wisely, and have a safe Christmas."