Women on P.E.I. will have their own space in the Provincial Correctional Centre by 2021.
There is currently no space for female inmates to serve time in the jail in Summerside. In Charlottetown, female inmates are housed in men’s units.
The P.E.I. government has committed to building a new wing on the grounds of the Provincial Correctional Centre on Sleepy Hollow Road in Milton.
The $12.9 million needed for the construction was set aside in the province’s 2019-2024 five-year capital plan.
The new unit will have 22 cells, including four maximum-security cells, six medium-security, 12 minimum-security (with the potential for doubling up), three short-term lock-up cells and two medical cells.
The plans also include renovations to the kitchens and a secure drop-off port where staff can unload people inside, said Justice Minister Jordan Brown.
When the facility was built in 1979, a woman’s unit wasn’t included. But times have changed, and last year 99 women spent a total of 4,666 nights there. There is a handful of women in the facility at any given time, said Brown.
The rates of women’s incarceration have increased, and correction practices have evolved to include rehabilitation.
Brown said the staff is doing a great job with the limited space, adding, “Certainly there’s more that can be done if we are looking to follow best practices.”
There are a number of differences between men and women in the corrections system, Brown said. One that especially deserves attention is that many female inmates have regularly experienced trauma and violence.
“They would often need a multi-faceted approach for issues such as addiction, mental illness and trauma recovery,” he said. “Appropriate rehabilitation for female offenders will often help to reduce the generational cycle of crime.”
The Elizabeth Fry Society Saint John Chapter helps women in the justice system and works to prevent women from becoming criminalized.
“Two-thirds of the women who are right now incarcerated are mothers. A high proportion of those have the primary responsibility for their children,” said executive director Judy Murphy.
“So, if you think of the hardship for the women incarcerated and separated from their children, it will just (exacerbate) any challenges they may have around mental health.
“We’re not saying women shouldn’t be responsible for the crimes they committed, but we feel that if there is an intention for moving forward, making positive choices for themselves and their families, it’s going to happen much more readily with community support than in any institutions.”
- Judy Murphy
“We’re not saying women shouldn’t be responsible for the crimes they committed, but we feel that if there is an intention for moving forward, making positive choices for themselves and their families, it’s going to happen much more readily with community support than in any institutions,” said Murphy.
Brown’s department is working to provide a safe and healthy space for women to be in custody while offering the kinds of supports Murphy encourages.
However, with every area in the current facility in use, it’s hard to create a women’s-only space where inmates feel comfortable.
“It’s a lack of privacy,” said Brown. “Everybody’s stuck in together.”
The new wing will have dedicated areas for rehabilitation programming.
Proposals from contractors were due by April 12. Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2020, with a projected opening in June 2021.