By Taylor MacPherson
In the wake of a highly critical report on the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, an advocate for the province’s inmates recommends the facility be replaced.
Canada’s correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, released his annual report this week, in which he said the Saskatchewan Penitentiary is lagging behind the nation’s other prisons.
Poor conditions are the norm, Zinger said, which makes the facility “no longer conducive to modern and humane correctional practice.”
The site has been in operation since 1911.
Greg Fleet, CEO of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, said he would like to see the aging federal prison torn down and replaced.
“It’s time that the Government of Canada, through the Correctional Service of Canada, takes a serious look at building a new facility to replace the Prince Albert Penitentiary,” Fleet told paNOW.
“You can only do so much with an old building.”
In addition to issues with the quantity and quality of food, which have been cited as the driving force behind a fatal riot at the penitentiary last December, Fleet said he has seen issues with overcrowding and double-bunking.
Crowded conditions lead to unrest, restrict programming and can lead to issues with mental health, he said, noting up to 80 per cent of inmates struggle with mental health or additions.
Fleet said the prison is in dire need of replacement, but the process is a slow one which has not yet begun.
“These things take time and planning,” Fleet said. “They would need to have a commitment from the federal government that this is a priority, and we’re just not seeing that.”
Part of the reason the process moves so slowly, Fleet said, is public hesitation to spend money on improving conditions for inmates.
Fleet said many people simply don’t understand the benefits of an effective and rehabilitative corrections system.
“What you need to realize is that 90 per cent of people who go to jail or go to prison are coming back to your community,” Fleet said. “That’s a fact. How do we want these people to return to the community?”
A spokesperson from Correctional Service Canada declined an interview with paNOW, but said administration has completed a comprehensive review of Zinger’s report and the recommendations from his office.
A Lessons Learned Bulletin will be developed to share lessons and best practices learned from the riot, a CSC spokesperson said in an email, and a summary of the official investigation into the riot’s causes will be made public next month.