Saskatoon remand centre shelved

The government has indefinitely delayed a plan for a remand centre at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.

Plan to ease overcrowding in limbo

The province has shelved indefinitely a proposed remand centre for Saskatoon. (CBC)

A proposed remand centre in Saskatoon that would house 216 people is on hold indefinitely.

The province quietly shelved construction of the planned centre, after calling for proposals and narrowing the bids down to one candidate.

This came despite internal government documents obtained by CBC that say "this added bed capacity, housed within a modern correctional facility, will significantly ease the current overcrowding pressures."

The Saskatoon jail routinely has upwards of 70 more inmates than spaces. And many of these inmates are on remand – they’ve been charged with an offense, but not yet convicted.

This means potentially innocent men are bunked with convicted criminals, sometimes with fatal consequences. 

Last September, a man on remand named Elvis Lachance was fatally stabbed by his cellmate. Lachance had been at the Saskatoon jail for less than 24 hours.

Corrections deputy minister Dale McFee didn’t rule out the possibility of a new facility in Saskatoon. But he says there’s nothing on the immediate horizon.

"There is no status of a Saskatoon remand centre. That'll be something that we'll look at collectively in relation to a master plan and see, do we really need a remand centre? If we do, is it best located in Saskatoon," McFee said.

"At the end of the day, we're not going to build our way out of our troubles."

McFee says the province is working on a master plan for all four correctional centres, and that will take at least another year to complete.

Shaun Dyer is with the John Howard Society, a prisoner advocate group. He says that building new spaces to ease overcrowding is just part of what needs to be done in the justice system.

Dyer is concerned with convicted and innocent people sharing cells.

"Well, we have to look at the fact that more than half the people at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre are remand prisoners. So, what does remand mean? Remand means that people are awaiting trial, they haven't been convicted," he said.

"Building a new facility certainly would help ease some of the initial spacing problems. So I find it curious, and a concerning decision that it's now been taken off the table."

The number of inmates in provincial jails has climbed each year since 2001.