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Report: maximum-security prison poses safety risks

Nunavut facility poses safety risks to staff, inmates, says Auditor General


(Canadian OH&S News) — A new report from the Auditor General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, has charged that Nunavut’s only maximum-security facility houses poor conditions that pose major safety risks to both staff and inmates.

In Corrections in Nunavut – Department of Justice, published on March 10, Ferguson accused the federal Department of Justice of having failed to address serious issues with the Baffin Correctional Centre (BCC) in Iqaluit, problems that “have been known for decades,” the report read. Established in 1986, the BCC holds male inmates of varying levels of security, from maximum to minimum.

Among the concerns highlighted by Ferguson:

  • The BCC held an average of 82 prisoners at a time during the 2013-14 fiscal year, despite having a capacity for only 68;
  • Inmates of different security levels often haven’t been separated from each other;
  • Inmates have been housed in the gym;
  • The building itself is substandard, with holes in walls, mould and poor air quality;
  • Cells, toilets and showers are not cleaned or disinfected sufficiently;
  • Basic security requirements for more dangerous inmates are insufficient; and
  • The prison fails to comply with the National Fire Code.

“The Department of Justice has been aware of critical deficiencies at its core correctional facility, the Baffin Correctional Centre, for many years,” Ferguson wrote. “Despite this, the Department invested funds to construct the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility and Makigiarvik [two additional prisons in Nunavut], which will provide some relief of overcrowding, but which does not address the territory’s most critical facility needs… We were not provided with a documented rationale supporting the approach the Department took.”

Ferguson also claimed that inmates of both the BCC and the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility had had limited access to rehabilitative programs, reintegration plans and mental-health services.

“The Department did not replace the Baffin Correctional Centre, as set out in its 2006–07 fiscal-year capital-planning document,” the report read. “The proposal for a $300,000 study to look at modernizing, expanding and possibly replacing the Baffin Correctional Centre was removed from the Department’s 2010-11 fiscal-year capital estimates by the Legislative Assembly.”

Ferguson’s report isn’t the first one to criticize the prison’s conditions. Most notably, in 2013, the Office of the Correctional Investigator authored a report that cited similar problems at the BCC, as well as lack of heat, insufficient running water and dust-obstructed air vents.

“The facility has been grossly overcrowded for many years, and it is now well past its life expectancy,” the earlier report stated. “The current state of disrepair and crowding are nothing short of appalling and negatively impacts on both inmates and staff.”

The Auditor General presented the new report to Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly on the day of its release. The report did not deal solely with the BCC, but also examined other facilities in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Kugluktuk, as well as outpost camps throughout the territory.

“The Department of Justice has not met its key responsibilities for inmates within the correctional system,” Ferguson concluded in the report. “The Department of Justice did not adequately plan for and operate facilities to house inmates and did not adequately manage inmates in compliance with key rehabilitation and reintegration requirements.”

Corrections in Nunavut is available to read online at http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/nun_201503_e_40255.html.