Buffalo Narrows, Sask. gets keys to former prison, wants to house addictions treatment

Buffalo Narrows wants to turn a former prison into a drug treatment centre.

Mayor says facility well-equipped for patients

Buffalo Narrows Mayor Bobby Woods said the biggest challenge with the facility will be to see if the government "works with us." (Chelsea Laskowski/CBC News)

Buffalo Narrows wants to turn a former jail into a drug treatment centre.

The (drug) trade is running rampant.- Mayor Bobby Woods

The correctional centre, located on the outskirts of the northwest Saskatchewan village, closed down in 2016 as a provincial cost-saving measure. Its inmates were transferred elsewhere, and now the municipality has bought the old facility.

Mayor Bobby Woods said the impacts of addiction have led people to ask town council for help. The community's economic development arm put in a bid for the building with the understanding that the facility would target treatment for people struggling with drug use and abuse. 

"No place that I know directly focuses on the impacts of drugs," Woods said.

"The (drug) trade is running rampant and our people are being caught up, you know, in the illness."

'Nobody really even looked at it as a prison'

Woods was one of the first correctional officers hired when the Buffalo Narrows Community Correctional Centre opened in 1980. Woods said the facility was minimum security, with large rooms for up to 18 inmates and no bars on the windows.

Woods sees great potential in the former jail's living room area, dining space, commercial kitchen, office space and walk-in storage. However, he acknowledged renovations will be needed.

He doesn't see any issues with using the building for treatment.

"Nobody really even looked at it as a prison when it was here in my opinion. They just looked at it as a facility in the community. Because again, the people that were there were people from around our surrounding communities," he said.

"To me, it doesn't matter what it was before or what it's gonna be. It's still an asset to the community," he said.

Provincial funding would be needed to get the treatment centre plan off the ground, Woods said. He added that the ministry of health has agreed to sit down with Buffalo Narrows leadership but that a meeting date has not been set. He said he would like to discuss getting social services, corrections and justice involved.

"Basically, we do not have the resources to work with people who are experiencing these problems. But we are survivors in northern Saskatchewan. We do what we can and we'll challenge whatever we need to challenge to be able to get to where we want to be," he said.

"If we are not successful in that, we will come up for a use for the facility, whether it's a youth facility or whatever it may be."

He is not disclosing how much Buffalo Narrows spent on the building.