Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay jail to stay 'as-is'

There are no plans for major renovations at the Thunder Bay jail despite calls from a criminal lawyer and the John Howard Society who say the jail is antiquated and overcrowded.

There are no plans for major renovations at the Thunder Bay jail despite calls from a criminal lawyer and the John Howard Society who say the jail is antiquated and overcrowded.

In an e-mail to CBC News, Ministry of Correctional Services spokesperson Greg Flood said the jail remains in what the ministry calls "operational condition."

"The Thunder District Bay Jail has never been condemned and remains in good operational condition," the manager of Issues and Media for the ministry wrote.

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Correctional Services says the Thunder Bay jail is in operational condition. (istock)

"The facility was converted from single to double-occupancy cells in the 1970s and now has the capacity for 132 inmates. There have been no major structural changes to the facility in the last 20 years.  There are no plans for major renovations at this time."

Not enough beds for inmates

Gil Labine, a criminal lawyer in Thunder Bay, told CBC the jail needs renovating because it is so often over-crowded.

"Especially after busy weekends when there's a lot of people kept in custody ... before they have had a chance to be released on bail." he said. "I've heard from many clients that there are sometimes as many as three [inmates] to a cell."

"If you're lucky enough to get one of the two beds in the cell you are fine," he added. "But if you're not .. you may receive a form of a bed on the floor."

The executive director of the Thunder Bay John Howard Society, Liisa Leskowski, said when corrections staff have to put a mattress in a cell to cope with overcrowding, "someone's...sleeping with their head right next to the toilet."

Lawyers also concerned about Kenora jail

There are also concerns in Kenora where Peter Kirby said he and other lawyers have frequently been told by inmates in the jail there that they've slept on the floor.

In response to those concerns, ministry spokesperson Greg Flood said "the Kenora jail was upgraded from single bunks to double bunks and the young offender unit was also converted to a female adult unit, adding 30 beds increasing the adult capacity to 105."

"Overcrowding is a key issue for correctional facilities across the country," Flood added. "The ministry has policies and procedures in place at each correctional facility to manage overcrowding/capacity issues, and the ministry has strategies in place to continually assess capacity needs to ensure that beds are available where they are most needed in the province."