Iqaluit jail damaged as 4 inmates wreak havoc

Four inmates at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit damage a sizeable portion of the prison's interior Monday night and early Tuesday.

No injuries reported in ‘destruction’ of large sections of living quarters in 2-hour-long incident

Prisoner living quarters in the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit were damaged overnight earlier this week by four inmates. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Four inmates at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit damaged a sizeable portion of the prison's interior Monday night and early Tuesday. They have been removed and are being held at the Iqaluit RCMP detachment.

Chris Stewart, acting director of corrections for the territory's Department of Justice, told CBC the incident "resulted in extensive damage to the living spaces of the Baffin Correctional Centre."

The inmates destroyed "85 per cent of the building's medium security bed space and 33 per cent of the maximum security bed space," according to information from the Department of Justice.

Chris Stewart, acting director of corrections for the Department of Justice, said everything is being done to ensure the safety of prison workers and inmates going forward. (CBC)

Stewart said no one was injured in the two-hour-long incident.

"We know there could have been," he said. "We're really thankful to the staff that had the patience and were able to de-escalate the situation."

Stewart said repairs to the damaged living spaces have been made, although other improvements are underway. He could not estimate the final cost of repairs.

Iqaluit RCMP say they are still investigating, and it's too early to say if anyone will be charged.

Prison notorious

The Baffin Correctional facility is notorious for the difficult living situation inmates are exposed to. The facility itself is slated to be extensively renovated, rebuilt and renamed the Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre under a $76 million plan, beginning next summer.

The view from the bathroom in a six-person cell in the maximum security unit at Baffin Correctional Centre last October. Prisoners in this unit are the most violent inmates at the jail. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

The prison has been widely condemned as inadequate. Overcrowding at the facility has been cited as a major concern in the past. 

When the prison was built nearly 30 years ago, it was designed as a minimum security facility for 41 inmates.  At times, the prison has regularly housed more than 75 inmates.

The construction of the new Makigiarvik Correctional Centre in 2015 — a minimum security facility designed to hold 48 prisoners — took some pressure off the Baffin Correctional Centre.

But the Baffin Correctional Centre still holds holds 55 inmates, with 20 serving prison sentences and 35 remanded in custody.

Stewart couldn't say what caused the destructive behaviour.

"It's difficult to speculate on the exact cause," he said. "Although as we look toward the future, we look at having our facilities have inmates engaged so that they use lots of their energy so we can avoid situations like this in the future."

With files from Jordan Konek