Local contractor C.A.B. Construction Ltd. landed the job of designing and building the new adult women’s correctional facility in Fort Smith last week with a winning proposal amounting to just over $23.5 million.
The new facility will have the capacity for 23 women and will be constructed on McDougal Rd. next to the existing River Ridge facility for male inmates.
“By building on the same site as the existing centre for men, we will be able to realize efficiencies in food services, utilities and administration,” Justice Minister David Ramsay said last week.
The new building will replace the current facility, a house that was built in 1962, retrofitted to become a group home and then converted into a jail in the early 1990s. According to Thebacha MLA and NWT Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger, a new facility had been on the capital plan for six or seven years.
“The building has seen its day,” he said. “So it’s good that it’s out, it’s good that it’s a local contractor, and the design is going to put it right up there as a modern facility for ladies. So it’s good news.”
Last year’s Auditor General report on the state of corrections in the NWT noted there was a lack of sufficient space for medical clearance of inmates at the facility, and inmates were being housed in facilities with doors that don’t lock.
Critical deficiencies identified in the report included non-compliance with National Building Code of Canada requirements for detention centres, which include non-combustible construction, fire separations and a sprinkler system. The present facility’s layout also offers limited surveillance of inmates, with no space to hold high-risk inmates requiring enhanced security.
“The current facility doesn’t meet today’s standards for a correctional facility,” said Sue Glowach, a spokesperson for Justice. “We do work-arounds on stuff to make sure that everyone’s safe, but it should be a cinderblock building, and it’s time.”
Design on the new building is currently underway, with construction expected to begin in the spring of 2016 and the facility finally scheduled to open in the spring of 2018.
According to the department of Justice, the design will include provisions for inmates’ spiritual needs and special programming areas, along with the appropriate security requirements.
While the new building was originally priced out at $35 million, the department said it scaled back plans for the complex after consulting on community needs.
“They re-did their numbers,” Miltenberger said. “Initially, I think they were looking at something like 40 beds, and they’ve checked with the latest sentencing and those type of things and their own past history, (to see) that they would never need 40 beds.”
Glowach said the facility is being designed with the capacity to expand, should it be required in the future.
Following the opening of the new facility, the current structure will be decommissioned and no longer used for correctional purposes.