Nova Scotia

N.S. fire marshal examines overcrowded jail

The fire marshal is looking at conditions at Nova Scotia's largest jail, where inmates are sometimes housed in holding cells because the facility is so crowded.

The fire marshal is looking at conditions at Nova Scotia's largest jail, where inmates are sometimes housed in holding cells because the facility is so crowded.

The Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth is supposed to house a maximum of 322 inmates, but there were more on a dozen occasions this winter.

At times, there were four mattresses in a holding cell.

While the fire marshal's office approved 98 additional beds in some cells last fall, it's now examining 15 extra spots in holding cells to ensure the jail complies with fire regulations.

Joan Jessome, head of the union that represents guards, calls the practice of double-bunking a "recipe for disaster."

"You have so many people in that area that's not built for and you can't even bring people in cause there's no physical room to put them that certainly is a potential for violence," said Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.

Michel Samson, Liberal justice critic, said officials should not have started using the holding cells.

"This is a facility that's had a history of this," he said. "To think that the government is now exceeding what's deemed to be safe by the fire marshal and putting not only the workers but everyone in that facility at risk is clearly unacceptable."

Samson said the NDP government is to blame for the overcrowding because it's restricting who can serve their weekend sentences at home rather than in jail.

Provincial officials say they're not aware the use of holding cells violates the building code. They say they'll work with the fire marshal's office to ensure the jail is safe.

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