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Sask. jails overflowing with inmates on remand
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 6:38PM CST
Saskatchewan's correctional system is experiencing a major influx of inmates, and that number has been slowly climbing for years.
A former inmate, who asked to be identified as Ryan, says Saskatchewan prisons are overflowing with inmates on remand awaiting trial or sentencing.
"I fear for Saskatchewan corrections right now, and I fear for the state that they are in," he said.
The number of inmates on remand in Saskatchewan has grown by about 500 per cent since the 1980s. In 2003, there were 1,162 inmates in Saskatchewan correctional facilities. Of those, 308 were on remand. In 2007, the total grew to 2,000 inmates, with 487 on remand.
Currently, there are nearly 2,000 inmates behind bars and 865, or 45 per cent, are on remand. Depending on the day, the Ministry of Justice says that number can be as high as 55 per cent.
"These rising numbers are something that's unmanageable,” said ministry spokesperson Drew Wilby. “It’s not sustainable and we need to take some action to begin to reduce it."
The average stay for an inmate on remand is about six days. But criminal defence lawyer Jeff Deagle says he has had clients who have spent years on remand awaiting trial.
"Very commonly, you get clients saying 'I’m here for something I didnt' do,’” Deagle said. “That causes a lot of agitation for our clients as they are being held and they can't get out."
It costs $62,000 a year to house an inmate in a provincial correctional facility.
"The quicker we can get them to a federal facility, the better off everyone is," Wilby said.
The ministry says the reason for the remand time is partially due to backlog in the courts. In response, the province has budgeted $1.5 million for new initiatives.
The province is now working with prosecutors and police to ensure proper court documents are ready on Mondays, so court appearances aren't pushed until later in the week or month.
The ministry has also signed contracts with the Salvation Army to provide short-term bed space.
"One of the biggest challenges in releasing someone is whether or not they have a fixed address, and a lot don’t,” Wilby said. “So, if we have bed space available, that can help to condition a judge"
The ministry says it has enough space for the current inmate population, but if it continues to grow as rapidly as it has over the last decade, it may be forced to re-evaluate the province's current infrastructure.