The Yukon Government has broken ground on a new correctional centre that will replace the 42-year old Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The new facility will promote healing and hope for change, says Yukon Minister of Justice Marian C. Horne.
“It’s no secret that most of the people that go to jail in Yukon are aboriginal,” she said. “This facility will provide the opportunity for inmates to address the root causes of their crimes and will offer programming that can help them to heal.”
The new correctional centre, which is unnamed, is on schedule to be completed in late 2011 at a projected cost of just under $67 million.
The facility is being constructed through a joint venture between Dominion Construction and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
The new correctional centre will have capacity to accommodate varied populations in a flexible living unit design.
With 104 cells, most with double bunk capacity, we have planned for future capacity and will be able to accommodate up to 172 inmates, says Norma Davignon, who has been managing the project for the Yukon Government since 2006.
“Initially, it is likely that inmates will have a cell to themselves, but the design allows for flexibility in how the living units are used, to address a fluctuating population,” she said.
The new facility is designed with four men’s living units and one female living unit. These are designed with three levels highlighted with a full-height common area oriented to maximize direct sight-lines from the staff workstation and central control.
“This design allows for abundant natural light and air movement. The look and feel of the living units will be consistent with promoting an overall healing environment,” said Davignon.
The use of appropriate colours and natural materials, such as solid core wooden doors and acoustic treatments will minimize the institutional feel of the environment and help add to promoting a natural environment, she noted.
“We heard through our Corrections Consultation and subsequent meetings with First Nations, Elders, staff and programmers that providing flexible programming space and outdoor access to inmates will be important to the success of inmate programming at the new correctional centre,” said Davignon.
Inmates will have direct access to secure outside yards and various program and activity spaces. Meals will be prepared centrally and served in the living unit common spaces. This means inmates will no longer take meals in a cafeteria.
To accomplish this, correctional officers are being trained in a new style of Enhanced Direct Supervision, which will be a key feature of the new correctional centre.
Rather than the historic, indirect supervision of inmates, correctional officers are now being trained in modern techniques to work directly with inmates.
“This means they will spend more time working with inmates in the living units. Correctional officers will work from an open station on the unit and move freely throughout the unit,” she said.
A central control unit will oversee security for the facility.
During the normal course of the day, the living unit cells will remain open except during staff breaks. Movement to outdoor yards and activity areas will be uncontrolled as all are within the overall living unit envelope. Living units will be locked down when required for security reasons.
Offender programming will be offered through a common area in each living unit.
“This programming will help to resolve the problems that resulted in incarceration and will include education including literacy, alcohol and drug services and living skills,” she said.
Female inmates will be accommodated in a separate living unit with 20 cells. Like the men’s living units, the unit will have programming space, an outdoor yard and abundant natural light.
A large gathering space is being created to provide a venue for First Nations cultural events and larger programming sessions. This gathering area connects to a unique programming space referred to in planning as the healing room.
Another section of the facility will house inmates that require special attention, including segregation, if necessary.
A medical unit is also being constructed which will include dental services.