Friday, September 21, 2018

Quebec ombudsman calls construction delays at new Amos jail ”unjustifiable”

Quebec’s ombudsman Marie Rinfret says delays in opening a new Amos provincial detention centre in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, slated to be finished a year ago, are ”unjustifiable.”

Quebec’s correctional officers union says the long wait for the new jail is exacerbating problems of overcrowding and understaffing in the ageing facility it will someday replace — corroborating findings published in the Quebec ombudsman’s 2016-17 report.

Union president Mathieu Lavoie said detainees are sometimes housed in common areas, such as the gymnasium, because there are no holding cells left.

”We sometimes have to triple the capacity of a cell,” said Lavoie.

‘When you have 24 people in a sector that is supposed to have 16, you’re increasing the pressure on our correctional officers,” he said.

Once it finally opens, the new Amos detention centre will hold up to 220 detainees — 98 more than the existing jail.

The Ministry of Public Security officially launched the $126-million project in 2013.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the ministry said construction was delayed because it received some authorizations later than expected. It also said surveillance and security systems are complex and have to be verified thoroughly.

”There is a transition period to allow personnel to familiarize themselves with the building and get all the necessary training,” the ministry said, explaining that this can take months.

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