Announcement does nothing to address chronic problem of overcrowding in Manitoba correctional system.
Winnipeg (16 Jan. 2013) — The Manitoba government announced on January 11 that a new correctional facility would be built in Dauphin to replace the existing Dauphin Correctional Centre.
Manitoba correctional officers will no doubt welcome the news of a replacement facility in Dauphin but the government’s overall plan to remedy chronic overcrowding in Manitoba jails has in no way been addressed today.
“The jobs that will stay and be created for the future in the Parkland region are welcome news, and certainly our Correctional Officers, and the citizens in this region, are looking forward to getting started on the long process of designing and building a replacement centre,” said Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) President Michelle Gawronsky.
But the most pressing issue for correctional officers is the chronic overcrowding of inmates in our provincial jails, and today’s announcement moves us no further toward addressing this. According to Gawronsky, if there are no further announcements of expanded capacity in the near future, the problem will get worse, putting correctional officers, the public and inmates themselves in danger.
“Managing current inmate populations is nearly impossible as it is,” Gawronsky said. “Whether it’s separating gang members, dealing with mental health and addictions issues, ensuring the delivery of programs and education, dealing with case work, or any other of the many challenges correctional officers face each day, our officers do amazing work under the most difficult of circumstances. But there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and they’ve been given no reason to feel there’s any relief on the horizon with today’s announcement.”
"The estimated time to design and build a new corrections facility is between five and eight years. If inmate numbers continue to rise as they have in the past, we'll will be no further ahead and we are already at a crisis point now in terms of the number of inmates within provincial jails."
The public has a huge stake in this, too, said Gawronsky. If the corrections system cannot provide adequate resources to rehabilitate inmates (and space allotted for education and programs continues to get eaten up by demands for more housing of offenders), we’re simply graduating more effective criminals, not reforming individuals. That threatens community safety, she said.
“If the government cannot successfully bring down remand counts, and inmate populations continue to grow as they have, we are in very, very serious trouble. I am not being alarmist when I say we are looking at more violence at Manitoba jails,” she said. “We believe the federal Bill C-10 will bring inmate numbers up, and we haven’t seen a meaningful drop in remands since the ‘2 for 1’ remand credit was been brought in.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE