Crowded conditions lead to increased tensions and more violence. This is a safety issue for workers and inmates.” — Bob Bymoen, SGEU President
Regina (01 April 2015) —The long-standing issues of overcrowded Saskatchewan prisons are not being resolved because of short-sighted decisions and unnecessary delays, says the union that represents corrections workers across the province.
Prisons in Saskatchewan at full or over-capacity causing tension and concern
The corrections camp at Besnard Lake near La Ronge will not be opened for another six months, and a new unit in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre, scheduled to open earlier this year, will not be operational until the fall, and then it will run only at half capacity. This is of increasing concern for the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU/NUPGE).
“We have a situation now where many of the centres are running at full capacity or are dealing with overcrowding,” says SGEU President Bob Bymoen. In some cases, the overflow areas, including the gym, have no washrooms or showers. “Crowded conditions lead to increased tensions and more violence,” adds Bymoen. “This is a safety issue for workers and inmates.”
New space is needed to address safety concerns
Besnard Lake camp was closed last year due to a kitchen fire, but renovations are complete and there is no reason why it cannot open immediately, says Bymoen. The camp can accommodate up to 35 inmates and serves to help transition offenders from the correctional centre to the community. SGEU/NUPGE was recently notified that the camp opening will be postponed for another six months.
The new unit in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre was slated to open in early 2015, but due to a government hiring freeze that date was pushed back to April. Following the provincial budget, SGEU/NUPGE learned that the unit will not be opened until October, and even then it will use only 50 per cent of the new space in the facility.
“We have been raising concerns about the increased risk of violence as a result of overcrowding for years. We urge government to act immediately to open Besnard Lake camp and expedite the use of additional space made available by the new unit in Prince Albert,” Bymoen says. “It is a safety issue and, it could very well be an issue of life and death.”
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