Nunavut’s newest jail to open this fall in Rankin Inlet
“We have a lot of work to do before we take in our first offender”
When Nunavut’s new “men’s healing facility” in Rankin Inlet opens in the fall of 2012, the $40-million jail for male territorial offenders, located near the airport, will quickly fill to capacity, given the few prison beds available in the territory.
But Nunavut corrections officials say they plan to introduce new inmates gradually, staggering new arrivals to give time for offenders and staff to adjust.
The Government of Nunavut takes possession of the territory’s 48-bed correctional centre later this month.
Then, the justice department will begin to hire the facility’s 45 staff members from around Nunavut and Canada.
“We have a lot of work to do before we take in our first offender,” said Chris Stewart, manager of the department’s capital and special projects.
“But this correctional program is very new to the Kivalliq region and we can’t rush it. We have to make sure we’re ready.”
The facility’s late opening is due to standard construction delays, including problems connecting the centre building and adjacent staffing unit to local utilities, Stewart said.
When it finally opens its doors, the new medium-low security facility may take some of the pressure off Iqaluit’s Baffin Correctional Centre.
Built to accommodate 48 inmates, BCC now houses more than double that number.
And those numbers could change under the federal government’s recently passed crime legislation, Bill C-10, which promises new mandatory minimum sentences for adults and tougher youth justice provisions.
The Rankin Inlet jail won’t help Nunavut offenders who need more surveillance — the centre has 32 medium-security and 16 low-security beds — but the justice officials say it will help the offenders it houses to “better themselves.”
“Make no mistake — this is a correctional facility,” Stewart said.
“But we’re calling it a healing facility because of some of the programming that we’ll offer to the male inmates, which are designed to re-introduce them into society as functional members.”
Some of that will include programs to address violence. Other programs will help to build an inmate’s skills while he is incarcerated.
Offenders will also get help from community-based programs, such as counselling through the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre or technical courses at Nunavut Arctic College’s new trades school.
The facility will try to take in men from the Kivalliq region first so they are closer to home and family.
One of the reasons Rankin Inlet was chosen for the new facility is its reputation for strong, community-based programs, said Jean-Pierre Deroy, Nunavut’s director of corrections.
“Our job as jailers is to keep both the offender and society safe, but the community’s role is very important,” he said. “We need their help.”
The goal: to help inmates achieve both education and rehabilitation. That’s so offenders will leave the facility able to support themselves and even their families, he said.
That philosophy means corrections also try to respond to the community’s wishes too, Deroy said. People in Rankin Inlet made it clear they didn’t want a building that looked like a prison.
What grew out of that community input is a bright one-storey structure with wood panelling and coloured window frames.
It resembles a school more than a detention centre.
While the justice department works towards the opening of Rankin Inlet’s facility, Deroy said plans to set up a new temporary jail in Iqaluit were “still up in the air.”
Justice Minister Daniel Shewchuk told the Nunavut legislature’s recent winter session that his department hopes to open a temporary facility in Iqaluit to
relieve the overflow at BCC “as soon as possible.”
But Deroy said that’s still in a “research and planning” phase.
“We’re looking at our options, but nothing has been decided,” he said.