Questions to the Minister of Justice regarding SMCC

132_blog.jpgOn February 23rd the Minister of Justice (Minister Sebert) appeared before the Committee of the Whole to defend and answer questions about the proposed 2017-2018 O&M budget for his department. Below is a question I asked regarding the South Slave Mackenzie Correctional Centre (SMCC) and the use of the remand centre.

MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It is currently not being used for remand. It is my understanding that it is fit to be used for remand. Offenders who are held in Yellowknife but whose trials are in the South Slave, I see them almost every time I fly back to Hay River on the plane. An RCMP officer and a remand inmate is being held in Yellowknife, and they fly later on back that day. That is $2,000 a trip for one inmate for one court appearance. We have a functioning remand facility in Hay River, and I am not quite sure why it is not being utilized. I believe Yellowknife is the only place with remand inmates. Is there a rationale why there is not a remand still in Hay River? Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Minister Sebert.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: Yes, although we, in the past, did have remand prisoners at South Mackenzie, it is a low-risk institution, and therefore no longer thought adequate to house remands. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Minister Sebert. Mr. Simpson.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The correction personnel have the same training as they do in Yellowknife, and there is a separate, secure remand area, so I am not quite sure. Can I get a little more explanation as to why it is no longer fit? Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Minister Sebert.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: As I say, the South Mackenzie Correctional Centre has been identified as a low-risk facility, and in our view, no longer appropriate for remand prisoners. Whatever the case was in the past, it is now felt that the facility which does house, as I say, low-risk prisoners is not suitable for remands. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Minister Sebert. Mr. Simpson.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess prisoners are just more dangerous nowadays. I did not get much of an explanation there of why it is no longer suitable when its classification has not changed. I am still not clear about that. I guess I will have to follow that up, because I do not think I am going to get an answer.

When someone is sent, where is the determination made where that person will serve their time if it is two years less a day? Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Minister Sebert.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Occasionally, suggestions, if I can put it that way, are made by the judiciary at the time of sentencing but, generally, the Corrections staff will make a determination of risk, available treatment programs, and so on, to determine where they should place a prisoner. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Minister Sebert. Mr. Simpson.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Are those decisions made in Yellowknife? Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Minister Sebert.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: I understand, yes, they are made in Yellowknife in consultation with case workers. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Minister Sebert. Mr. Simpson.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I understand Yellowknife, the correctional facility here is often quite full, quite nicely staffed, whereas the correctional centres elsewhere, the numbers seem to be dwindling. Remands are disappearing. Can the Minister confirm that every single inmate at the correctional centre in Yellowknife is classified as a high risk, I guess?

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Minister Sebert.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: No. I mean at North Slave, it is a high risk-facility, but that doesn’t mean that other inmates cannot be held there. In fact, there are medium-risk inmates and some low-risk inmates held in the Yellowknife facility. Thank you.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Minister Sebert. Mr. Simpson.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Is there a geographical reason for that? Is it because their home communities are closer? Because I know for a fact that that is not the case. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Minister Sebert.

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: Yes, I think geography does have some play in determining where an inmate is going to be placed. As I say, sometimes the judiciary makes a comment during sentencing that placing the inmate at a certain location should be considered. There are a variety of factors that enter into where an inmate is placed: risk; availability of programs; geography; close to family; and so on. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Minister Sebert. Mr. Simpson.

SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Minister’s statement made sometime this week commented on the availability of programs in all the facilities. It is my understanding there were quite a bit of programming at SMCC that was not available in the North Slave at one time. I guess I will have to continue looking into this, but no further questions. I am good on this topic. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

CHAIRPERSON (Mr. McNeely): Thank you, Mr. Simpson. Did you want to comment on that, Minister Sebert?

HON. LOUIS SEBERT: It can be that certain programs are available in institutions outside Yellowknife, so that would, of course, factor in if there was a very specialized program that was available elsewhere, then that would be a consideration on the placement of the inmate. Thank you.