New Rankin Inlet jail to focus on healing
“It’s almost a half-way house style”
After delays in construction, the new $40-million Rankin Inlet healing facility for convicted territorial offenders, who serve sentences of less than two years in jail, will finally open this September.
Then, the jail will start to take in about six sentenced male inmates at a time until it’s full, said Chris Stewart, manager of capital and special projects at the Nunavut Department of Justice.
This gradual approach will give new inmates and staff time to adjust to the new building, which is equipped with 48 beds in 36 secure or medium-risk units and 16 low-risk units.
In this jail, community-based programming, such as spousal assault and literacy programs, will “really allow the healing process to take place,” Stewart said.
Counselling programs will also be offered, along with programs that allow offenders to take advantage of the Nunavut Arctic College trades school in Rankin Inlet.
“It’s almost a half-way house style,” Stewart said.
Inside, inmates will find two multi-purpose rooms with a maximum capacity of about 20 where, for example, they can participate in arts and crafts programs, in the morning or attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the afternoon.
“We did not compromise on security, but we did want to have a comfortable interior,” Stewart said.
The gymnasium will also serve as as multi-purpose space, as a gym and as a place for large gatherings and feasts.
The building includes two visiting areas: one, an open room that guards can view, that is one, with no separation between the inmates and their visitors, and another with glass separation which will see inmates on one side of a window and visitors on the other.
A medical services centre, staffed by two nurses and a medical supervisor will also be on site.
In total, 45 full-time workers and 15 to 20 part-time workers will work at the jail, after they complete finish a training program of about five to six weeks.
When inmates and staff get used to the new building and programs, “we’ll be able to fill it up to capacity,” Stewart said.
The goal is to accept as many offenders as possible from the Kivalliq region, said Stewart, noting the new facility could alleviate overcrowding at the Baffin Correctional Centre.
And the design of the new building could even allow the addition of another pod to enlarge its capacity. But for now the focus is on the gradual introduction of offenders, Stewart said.
“We’re really excited about this building,” said Stewart, noting that from the outside, the building doesn’t resemble a typical jail. “That’s what the community wanted, they didn’t want to have what looked like a jail in their back yards.”
Safety is the greatest strength of the building, because “people have to feel safe before we can start the healing or rehabilitation process,” he said.
In the back, there’s also space for an elders’ program.
“The building was designed specifically for elders to be able to come in and pass on their knowledge in a safe way,” he said.