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It’s all been removed by a $ 900,000 renovation that is cleaning up the prison’s pervasive mould, its broken fire sprinklers, its punched-out walls, its uncleanable bathrooms. A new building next door has eased overcrowding and prisoners no longer bunk down in the gym.
That assessment was echoed by an email from a senior Nunavut bureaucrat to Justice Minister Paul Okalik earlier this year. Deputy justice minister Elizabeth Sanderson wrote: “Nunavut is likely in significant breach of constitutional obligations towards remanded accused and inmates … and faces a high risk of civil liability towards inmates, staff and members of the public.”
Built for 68 minimum-security prisoners, it has averaged more than 80 and up to 115 at any one time, from all security levels, including remand. That kind of overcrowding, with six prisoners in nine square metres of cell, wears on a building.
“The wall is an easy target,” said Deroy.
In one still-used cell, heat registers were falling off the wall and ceiling tiles were dropping. A patched hole that had been chipped through the wall once allowed the passage of drugs and money to other cells.
Deroy tells of one inmate opening a ceiling-light fixture, sneaking through the ducting and breaking into the prison canteen.
The toll overcrowding has taken on the building is nothing compared to its toll on inmates. With no space to segregate the dangerous prisoners from the rest, violence has been common.
Auditor general Michael Ferguson noted that physical assaults on inmates, staff or visitors more than tripled to 185 between 2002 and 2012. A carving program in the prison yard was cancelled years ago because participants were being forced to mule contraband.
“Some of the carvers got beat up pretty good,” said Idlout.
“You often see people on probation that if they were down south, they would be sentenced to custody.
“If we had one wish as to what we would need, we’d ask for space. We need space.”
An adjacent 48-bed, minimum-security facility called Makigiarvik that opened in March is easing some of the overcrowding. So is a new 48-bed minimum- and medium-security prison in Rankin Inlet.
“We’re able to separate our groups,” he said. “It actually allows us to work more closely with the offenders and do the programming that we want to do.”
Makigiarvik, a $ 16-million bright, fresh place with a proper classroom and high ceilings, gives Deroy a carrot to motivate offenders to good behaviour.
And it gives him a little peace of mind.
Still, the auditor general says Nunavut has a way to go.
Even with the new facilities, he predicted Nunavut will be short 70 prison beds within the next decade. And there’s still no maximum-security space.
The territorial government provided an official response: “The Corrections Division recognizes the need for maximum-security beds and that currently the territory’s maximum-security needs are not being met. In conjunction with other government departments we are exploring further funding options to address our capacity needs.”
Deroy said the offenders under his charge deserve at least that much.
“These people that are with us, they come from our families. They come from our communities. They’re our people.”