Opposition Says Overcrowding at Manitoba Jail Contributing to Contraband Problem

Opposition Says Overcrowding at Manitoba Jail Contributing to Contraband Problem

Brandon Correctional Centre
Brandon Correctional Centre

BRANDON, Man. — Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives say data they’ve obtained through a freedom-of-information request show more contraband was seized at the Brandon Correctional Centre last year than at any other jail in the province.

The Opposition says 98 items that included drugs, weapons and home brew were seized by guards– a jump of 10 per cent from 2013.

As of May 27, the centre had 314 prisoners and was more than 24 per cent over capacity.

Tory justice critic Kelvin Goertzen says overcrowding is contributing to the problem.

A Manitoba Justice spokesman says the Brandon facility has capacity for 252 inmates.

But the spokesman also says corrections officials do not believe inmate capacity is a significant factor when it comes to contraband.

Manitoba’s jails include correctional centres in Brandon, Dauphin, Headingley, Milner Ridge and The Pas, the Women’s Correction Centre at Headingley and Winnipeg Remand Centre.

In 2013-2014, there were 21,704 adults in provincial-territorial custody across the country, which translates to an incarceration rate of 87 offenders per 100,000 adult population, according to Statistics Canada.

However, Manitoba had the highest rate of incarceration among the provinces at 242 per 100,000 adult population.

Goertzen, whose office distributed the information, said overcrowding is making it harder to keep contraband out.

“We’ve seen over the last couple of years at Headingley, and it’s true in Brandon as well, that there is anywhere from 170 to 190 incidents where those who are working in the facilities found these dangerous weapons, drugs or other things that cause those in the facility to be unsafe.”

The Manitoba Justice spokesman said correctional facilities manage higher inmate populations by using double bunks or turning gymnasiums into sleeping quarters.

“Safety is a primary consideration whenever these types of changes are implemented. In all provincial facilities, contraband is taken very seriously and the number of confiscated items is due to the vigilance of staff.”

The spokesman also said officials work to ensure the safety of inmates and staff by identifying gang associations and other potential security risks.

There are 206 staff at the Brandon jail, including approximately 165 correctional officers.

CP - The Canadian Press