Twelve inmates were moved into Besnard Lake Correctional Camp this week, months after renovations at the facility were complete.
Repairs from a fire in the provincial government’s community training camp were complete in April, but the reopening was pushed back to the fall.
The reason for the delay lies in a review of the Ministry of Justice’s reduced custody facilities across the province, said Drew Wilby, the ministry’s executive director of corporate affairs.
While this review was occurring, people who would be taking programming at Besnard Lake were instead “crammed” into Pine Grove Correctional Centre’s gym, opposition NDP member Doyle Vermette said in question period at the legislature in April.
Community, staff, visitor, and offender safety are the key priority of the ministry, Justice Minister Christene Tell responded, adding that corrections does have the capacity to house its inmates.
The review looked over existing facilities, the capital available for facilities and infrastructure needs, and the best use of what is already in place, Wilby said.
The opening of Besnard Lake’s facility this month “is a decision that makes sense to correction’s business model at this time,” Wilby said, adding that lessons from a similar facility in Yorkton – White Spruce – will help inform programming at Besnard Lake.
Besnard Lake camp is about an hour and a half drive from La Ronge, and the main goal is to provide programming that “would make offenders employable in the north upon release,” he said.
The ministry is currently in discussions with potential employers on the specifics of how that might take shape, but trades skills are a possibility.
“The important thing is to turn those tax users into taxpayers and a good way to do that of course is to have a job. And in order to do so you need the skills and the education that is required for those positions,” Wilby said.
The inmates chosen to take part in its skills and job training will be those serving low-risk sentences, he said.
Within the next month, Wilby said he expects 25 offenders to be at the Besnard Lake camp.
They’re in the process of “determining who best fits the mix,” he said.