Saskatchewan

Jail overcrowding could get worse, warns Sask. ombudsman

Overcrowding in Saskatchewan's jail could go from bad to worse when a federal crime bill takes effect, according to the provincial ombudsman.

Overcrowding in Saskatchewan's jail could go from bad to worse when a federal crime bill takes effect, according to the provincial ombudsman.

Kevin Fenwick's latest annual report, released Monday, warns that the ongoing problem of crowded jails is likely to deteriorate further.

The crime bill, which passed a final vote in the House of Commons on March 12, includes mandatory jail sentences for certain crimes.

Critics of the bill have argued that mandatory minimum sentences will burden Canada's prison and court systems.

"Correctional centres in Saskatchewan already house almost twice as many inmates as they were designed for," Fenwick's report states in part.

"With the recent passage of the federal omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, this situation has the potential to deteriorate further. No one can predict with certainty how great the impact will be, but it would be naïve to suggest that the impact will be anything less than significant."

Fenwick said double-bunking is already common in Saskatchewan jails, but he added there could soon be cases of three inmates staying in spaces meant for just one person.

Worst of all, he said, are classrooms inside jails being converted into dormitories, which could lead to less education programs for inmates.

"We need to break the pattern where inmates are simply warehoused in our correctional facilities," Fenwick told reporters.

"Instead, we have to concentrate on giving them marketable skills so they're different people when they come out."

Fenwick said giving offenders those skills is the only way to prevent them from reoffending and going back to jail.

"If a person comes out of jail as a welder or a carpenter, they are much less likely to reoffend. That is a goal that we all seek," states his report.

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