North

Makigiarvik opened early due to 'health crisis'

The new healing facility meant to help relieve overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre has still not officially opened, but is already housing inmates who had to be removed from the BCC because of mould.

New healing facility in Iqaluit is already housing inmates because of mould at BCC

The Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit struggles with overcrowding, mould and contraband —​ issues that are now overflowing into the territory's two lower-level security healing facilities.

The new healing facility in Iqaluit meant to help relieve overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre has still not officially opened, but is already housing inmates who couldn't stay in the BCC, while crews remove mould.

The Makigiarvik healing facility — its name means "go through hard times and start over" —  is still set to have an official opening next month.

"We have moved some of our low-risk offenders into Makigiarvik before we ideally would have wanted to," said Elizabeth Sanderson, Nunavut's deputy minister of justice. "That was as a result of a health crisis at BCC."

Sanderson, who earlier this year raised the issue of a potential class action lawsuit against the Nunavut government over conditions at the jail in a leaked memo, was speaking at day three of a review of a damning auditor general's report on Nunavut corrections.

Something similar happened at the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility, which the audit found was opened before a clear mandate was created to define the difference between a "healing facility" and a regular jail. Instead, standing orders at the new facility were adopted wholesale from BCC, and are only now being rewritten.

"As soon as the construction was done, the pressure was on," said J.P. Deroy, director of corrections. "Open it. Open it. Open it."

Sanderson said the lesson learned is not to succumb to pressure and open early, but that pressure appears to have already been applied at Makigiarvik.

She also said she would like to say the justice department is done reviewing options to fix overcrowding and ready to move on, but she cannot.

Jerome Berthelette, assistant auditor general, commended the justice department for how it has responded to the audit's recommendations, but says the "overwhelmed" system will have to do more.

"These are good steps," Berthelette said. "but the department has a lot of work to do."

203 contraband incidents in 2 years

MLAs also discussed the amount of contraband smuggled into the Baffin Correctional Centre. The auditor general's report cited 203 incidents in just two years.

Justice officials blame two issues for making it easy to sneak contraband into the jail: plywood walls and a fence that doesn't completely surround the building.

"It's easy to actually either bring it through drilling holes in the wall, for somebody going for work release outside and coming back with contraband," said Deroy. 

The contraband is not just drugs or cigarettes, but anything that is restricted to inmates including, in some circumstances, food.

"And you wouldn't believe where sometimes they hide the contraband," Deroy said. 

The department is working on a way to track the contraband, so it can better analyze the problem.

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