Few comforts for Nunavik Inuit in southern Quebec jails: report to KRG
Due to 2006 deal with Quebec, there's no provincial correctional centre in Nunavik
If you’re a man or woman from Nunavik who’s packing to go off to jail, don’t empty your closet: you can put only certain items of clothing in your suitcase, such as three pairs of pants or shorts, three t-shirts and six pairs of underwear.
You can bring along recent newspapers and a simple watch, but forget about buying and packing cigarettes — this is not allowed.
That’s part of the information on what to expect if you end up in Quebec’s correctional system, provided Nov. 27 to the Kativik Regional Government council meeting in Kuujjuaq by Guy Brouard from the province’s public security department.
There now are about 80 Nunavik men jailed at the St-Jérôme detention centre north of Montreal, serving sentences of two years less a day, and about 30 more serving time in federal penitentiaries, along with a growing number of women from Nunavik in federal and provincial jails, such as Tanguay in Montreal.
Many others, awaiting sentencing, remain in preventive detention in Amos.
A 2006 deal with Quebec, which traded the construction of a provincial jail in Nunavik for about $300 million in social handouts, means Quebec pays Makivik and the KRG more than $10 million a year for crime prevention programs until 2030.
But it also means that, because Nunavik traded the construction of a jail in the region for its Ungalak crime prevention program, if you’re arrested in Nunavik, and detained for more than a couple of days, you’ll end up in the South.
Brouard’s presentation at the KRG regional council meeting outlined the rules for life in jail.
In Nunavik, short-term jail cells, where most prisoners stay only when they’re waiting to appear in court, are generally located in Kativik Regional Police Force police stations — where regional councillors complained last September about the lack of country food.
If you’re detained in Nunavik, you can get visits from between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
But in Amos, where detainees in preventive custody wait for court hearings back in Nunavik, there are no visiting hours, although, on request, arrangements can be made for visits.
In St-Jérôme, your visitors need to give 24 hour-advance notice, and, if you’re a woman with children in Tanguay and want your children to visit, these visits must first be arranged between the unit chief and social services, Brouard said.
As for country food, your family and friends can’t bring any to you as “there have been circumstances where drugs were put in the food,” he said, although some country food is supplied to detention centres in the South.
But it’s not only food and family you may miss while in jail: you may not be able to talk much on the phone, either.
In Nunavik jail cells, there is only one telephone available, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 10 p.m, and the phone is passed from cell to cell.
But telephone use can be “withdrawn any time for reasons judged relevant by employees,” Brouard noted.
In southern detention centres, a telephone is available in the common area from 8 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. But you can only make collect calls.
And you can’t plan on getting much, if any, exercise. In southern jails, you’ll get an hour outside, but not in Nunavik. That’s because there are no secure facilities.
If you’re ill or need health care services, medical care is offered at the detention centre in Amos, but you’ll have to ask — in writing — for an appointment with medical staff.
In Nunavik, you can tell a guard, who will try to set up an appointment, Brouard said.
When you finally get out of jail, correctional services pays your plane ticket to return for Nunavik, go for treatment or to reside in another community in the region, when that’s ordered by court.
And if you have nowhere to stay while waiting for the plane, a hotel room will be booked and paid by correctional services, Brouard said.
During any given year, at least 350 Nunavimmiut, from a region with a population of about 10,000, enter Quebec’s correctional system, according to recent statistics from the province’s public security department.
Nunavimmiut comprise 26 per cent of the roughly 1,260 aboriginal offenders who enter the provincial system during the year and account for 40 per cent of the 190 aboriginal inmates held in Quebec jails at any one time.
To reduce the number of Nunavik men and women who are in jail, the KRG has developed a project called “reconstructing social regulation” in English (Inillatirigiatsianiq Inuuqatigiit in Inutittut),aims to restore social peace, keep adults out of jail and give children safer, healthier lives.