The CEO of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan believes there are options available to the government to reduce prison overcrowding.
A report released by provincial auditor Judy Ferguson on Dec. 8 found that the prison population had grown by 51 per cent since 2006, with a 104 per cent increase in the number of inmates on remand.
Greg Fleet said overcrowding is putting pressure on both inmates and staff.
“Over 50 per cent of the population that are occupying our correctional centres are on remand, meaning that these people have not yet been convicted of an offence,” Howard said in an interview with Global News.
“We find that concerning in that there’s double bunking, triple bunking, areas that were intended for recreational areas converted into dorms.”
That is causing less effective programming for those serving time, Fleet said.
One solution the organization would like to see is for the government to divert low-risk inmates, those who are in the system due to administrative charges like missing a court date or breach of conditions, into community supervision.
He also said that upwards of 70 per cent of inmates have mental health or addiction issues.
“We believe connecting people awaiting trial with addiction services, mental health services, also connecting with other community agencies … can be effective in keeping the community safe,” Fleet said.
“The system that we have currently is broken, it’s just not working.”
He said this would allow those on remand to remain with their families and continue working while waiting for their court date.
The Ministry of Justice is working with Crown prosecutors to look at ways of reducing the number of inmates on remand in jail.
Fleet said the John Howard Society is ready to help the government in dealing with the situation.
“The government is looking at ways of reducing the remand numbers, we’re encouraged to hear the minister of justice talk recently about the desire to meet with police and prosecutors to find new and creative ways of reducing remand numbers.”
“We look forward to being a partner at the table with the government in this process.”