Government wants more public input on Baffin Correctional Centre's makeover

It was the first time the public got to have their say on the new designs and plan for Nunavut’s infamous prison Tuesday — and it was dominated with concerns for inmates.

1st public meeting was Tuesday, and there was an 'overwhelming plea' for inmates' community involvement

Baffin Correctional Centre will be called the Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre. It will be a three-story building with about 112 beds and construction is expected to be completed by 2021. (Government of Nunavut Department of Justice)

It was the first time the public got to have their say on the new designs and plan for Nunavut's infamous prison Tuesday— and it was dominated with concerns for inmates, according to the territorial government's Department of Justice.

"What we heard in our first public engagement was an overwhelming plea for the inmates to be able to get out there, and help the community more," said Chris Stewart, manager of capital and special projects for the department.

"That's something that we're definitely going to make sure that we're doing moving forward," said Stewart.

Baffin Correctional Centre will get a $76 million makeover and a name change to Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre by the fall of 2021, says the department.

The facility, built in 1986, is "well past its life expectancy" and "cells are overcrowded beyond acceptable standards of safe and humane custody," according to a report by the Office of the Correctional Investigator in 2014.

"At this present time, Baffin Correctional Centre is more or less a jail where people feel like they're being punished," said Nishita Bracken, a case worker at the centre.

Three toilets, three urinals and four showers serviced 36 prisoners back in November 2015. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

The new healing centre will have about 112 beds. She says elders had a big part in designing the new healing centre's designs to make it more "culturally appropriate."

"This particular one program room was asked by the elders committee to be a round-style, sort of like the atmosphere of inside an igloo," said Bracken.

Bracken says the bigger space will be able to better provide more programming for inmates, although they're still in the developing stages of new programs.

The view from the bathroom in a six-person cell in the maximum security unit at BCC in 2015. Prisoners in this unit are the most violent inmates at the jail. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

It is unclear how access to fresh air will be improved for inmates, but the government says they "intend" to make changes to increase access.

"We know it will be more pleasant," she said.

Wants more feedback from elders, public

Bracken said she noticed a lot of excitement about the new facility at Tuesday's meeting.

But she's hoping for more feedback from the community in the coming days, especially from elders.

The new correctional healing centre will have more space for more programming, says Bracken. (Government of Nunavut Department of Justice)

"We're really looking forward to hearing... elders' advice, we're really looking for people's reaction to healing, we're looking for people who are willing to help us out," she said.

The City's development committee meeting on the new facility has been postponed, says the department.

There will be public meetings again in the future, but the dates are yet to be determined.

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With files from Kieran Oudshoorn, Michelle Pucci, Qavavao Peter