Many Manitoba jails are housing hundreds more than capacity

With the Winnipeg Remand Centre now holding a record number of inmates, the issue of over-crowding in Manitoba jails is being discussed by the NDP government.  According to public numbers, as of Monday, there are 464 inmates being housed at the Centre - 60% above its capacity of 289. 

And that situation is mirrored at facilities across the province.  In fact, the Manitoba Government Employees Union says Manitoba has 836 more prisoners than it does prisoner beds.

To address the issue, the provincial government has formed a committee to discuss options with the public.  That committee held a hearing last week in Brandon and Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen (inset right) was there.  Goertzen says that for many, the topic of over-crowding is nothing new.

"The numbers aren't a surprise in that we've had over-crowding for a number of years now and its only gotten worse.  I think there's more attention coming to it now because the government is asking questions as to what they should do.  That is in some ways self-evident to me.  When you have that kind of over-crowding, when you have a shortage of space and it's causing a danger to the people working in those facilities, it's clear that you need to have additional capacity in the system."

Goertzen is urging the government to consider that above all else - the safety of those who are working in these bursting-at-the-seams institutions.

"It's a dangerous situation for them when you have these inmate populations that are being housed in facilities that weren't built to house those numbers, not to mention the kind of offenders that they have.  There are more violent offenders than there ever have been before, so it is tough for those working there."

He says there is another issue that is directly tied into prison populations, that being what goes on inside the prison.  Simply going to jail doesn't appear to be enough of a deterrent anymore, and Goertzen says that needs to be looked at long and hard.

"We have so many people who are coming out of jail and just re-offending and causing another victim on the street.  It's important that when someone is considered dangerous, we put them in a facility.  But, I don't think it makes sense to lock someone up for two years and then assume they're going to be any different when they come out two years later; that's not going to happen.  What's happening in our jails needs to be examined.  We need to find a way to make sure that doing time isn't wasted time, that there are actually corrective things that are happening so when people come out they are just causing another victim."