Saskatchewan

Provincial auditor says prison overcrowding due to spike of prisoners on remand

The provincial auditor said the Ministry of Justice needs a long-term plan to address inmate capacity issues in Saskatchewan correctional facilities.

Adult inmate population in Sask. has grown 51% since 2006

Provincial auditor Judy Ferguson released a report Thursday including an assessment of the Ministry of Justice. (Rob Kruk/CBC)

The provincial auditor said the Ministry of Justice needs a long-term plan to address inmate capacity issues in Saskatchewan correctional facilities.

In her latest report, Judy Ferguson said increases in numbers of prisoners in custody awaiting trial or sentencing is leading to overcrowding and inefficient use of tax dollars, costing $166 per day.

Saskatchewan's adult inmate population has grown 51 per cent since 2006, mainly due to a 104 per cent increase in number of inmates on remand.

Judy Ferguson released her report on Dec. 8. (Rob Kruk/CBC)

Ferguson also said that these prisoners take up space that could be used for rehabilitation of other inmates because the ministry is converting rehabilitation program space and visiting areas to living space for inmates.

"It is important for the ministry to look at options that do not involve major construction or renovation of existing facilities, such as diverting lower-risk inmates to community supervision," Ferguson said. "This is a key step in developing a long-term plan."

She said the ministry needs to implement a long-term plan to manage inmate capacity to ensure it has the right amount of space for housing and rehabilitation programming to the province's adult inmates.

Ministry responds

Drew Wilby, a spokesman with the Ministry of Justice, agreed with the auditor's assessment that the growth in remand inmates is an area of concern.

"We don't want to see individuals that should be coming into our facilities not come in, but there are those that don't need to be there, and quite frankly, they're becoming more dangerous by being within a facility," said Wilby. He said this happens when a non-violent offender interacts with violent offenders.

Justice ministry spokesman Drew Wilby says he agrees with the assessment of provincial auditor Judy Ferguson that the increase in remand inmates is a concern. (Rob Kruk/CBC)

The auditor and ministry said there are many alternatives for inmates on remand including night and weekend courts and electronic monitoring. Wilby said the facilities see inmate population spikes over the weekends because there isn't court during these times.

NDP responds

NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer agreed the ministry should be creating long-term options that don't require as many individuals to be waiting for their time in court while in prison.

She also said the province should be providing resources to community based initiatives created to reduce crime.

"That would be money that is better spent than the money that is being spent right now converting gyms into dorms."

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