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Cleanup begins after Nunavut inmates barricade prison wing


IQALUIT, Nunavut – Crews were cleaning up Nunavut’s notorious Baffin Correctional Centre after inmates barricaded themselves in a wing and caused considerable damage.

“Significant repairs will be required to BCC’s Charlie unit,” Nunavut Justice Minister Jeannie Ehaloak said Thursday. “The Department of Justice is looking at options to transfer and house inmates in correctional facilities outside the territory until these repairs can be completed.”

Ehaloak said there was no threat to public security.

No one was injured, she said, in what the department is calling a disturbance. Ehaloak said it began at about 11:00 p.m. Wednesday and lasted about 5 1/2 hours.

Corrections staff and RCMP brought the situation under control, she said. The Iqaluit fire department was also called, but didn’t go inside the jail.

Government spokeswoman Catriona MacLeod said 26 prisoners were in the barricaded unit.

On Thursday, 18 inmates were being housed at Iqaluit’s courthouse and another 16 were at the sheriff’s office. One inmate was transferred to hospital “as a precautionary measure,” MacLeod said.

The rest remained at the correctional centre, but it was not immediately clear how many that was.

Although it has improved in recent years, the prison has a troubled history.

Built for 68 minimum-security prisoners, it has averaged more than 80 and up to 115 at any one time in all security levels from remand to maximum. Six prisoners sometimes share nine square metres of cell.

A 2015 federal auditor general’s report harshly criticized the facility. That same year, a deputy justice minister in Nunavut warned the prison was so bad that it exposed the government to high risk of a civil lawsuit.

Violence among inmates was common. So was violence toward the building.

The prison wasn’t built to maximum-security standards, so inmates were able to punch and dig holes in the walls between cells and to the outside to exchange money, drugs and information. Overcrowding overloaded the building’s facilities and the building was heavily infested with mould.

Over the last few years, almost $1 million has been spent to clean the place up. A new $19-million minimum-security centre has been built adjacent to the correctional centre that gives guards a way to separate prisoners and provide some programming.

Still, problems persist. A rampage by prisoners last September destroyed most of the medium-security beds and about one-third of maximum-security space.

The territory has another 48-bed medium- and minimum-security prison in Rankin Inlet, but Nunavut still lacks a dedicated maximum-security facility. A new $76-million prison is planned but isn’t ready yet.

“The new infrastructure will address ongoing security related issues, as well as provide additional rehabilitative programming,” Ehaloak said.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Canadian Press