New jail to be built in Cape Breton

Justice Minister Mark Furey could not provide many details Wednesday but he said work on a new facility is in the early stages.

'We are in preliminary stages of work towards a facility,' says justice minister

Justice Minister Mark Furey says Cape Breton is an area that needs attention from his department. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is planning to build a new jail in Cape Breton.

Justice Minister Mark Furey could not provide many details Wednesday but he said work is in the early stages.

"When we look at correctional facilities across the province and the geographical areas they represent, and the objective desire to keep inmates in close proximity to their own communities, Cape Breton would be an area that requires attention," Furey said.

"We are in preliminary stages of work towards a facility in Cape Breton. There's a lot of planning that goes into that, but it's certainly on our radar, and the recognized need is there."

Existing jail needs to be modernized

Correctional facilities in Yarmouth, Pictou and Dartmouth have recently been renovated, and Furey said the existing Cape Breton jail also needs to be modernized.

There is no timeline yet for construction of a new facility.

Jason MacLean, a corrections worker from Cape Breton and president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, says there's been talk of replacing the aging Cape Breton Correctional Facility for a long time. (CBC)

Jason MacLean, a corrections worker from Cape Breton and president of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, said he's been hearing about plans to replace the 43-year-old Cape Breton Correctional Facility for some time.

He said serious planning is now taking place and corrections staff are being included in the process.

"I believe it's a great thing," MacLean said.

"There's a little bit of apprehension for old dinosaurs that have been around like myself for 20-plus years ... but it is a new facility.... I think it's going to be a brighter, cleaner place to do more innovative stuff with inmates, and really focus on some rehabilitation, as well."

Corrections have evolved over the years and the existing facility simply can't accommodate some of the latest programming needs, MacLean said.

MacLean said plans include changing from dormitory-style accommodations to individual or double-bunk cells. A separate wing is in the works for women, who currently have to leave the island for the Burnside jail in Dartmouth.

The new facility will likely be built in a different location, away from the existing jail just off the highway between Sydney and Glace Bay, he said.

"What I know now is there's plans put in place, there's been work done on a site, and what they need to do now is go to the Treasury Board and get approval for the funds," said MacLean.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 32 years. He has spent the last 14 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

With files from Jean Laroche