The costs associated with housing a remanded inmate costs nearly $300 a day, but a new Ministry of Justice program set to reduce those costs was recently introduced in Prince Albert.
According to Jaime Boldt, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, the John Howard Program will look at addressing the over population of remand in the province’s correctional facilities. More specifically, it will focus on male offenders who are held in custody between 3-14 days, are over the age of 18 and have committed minor offences.
As part of the plan, those type of offenders, who would normally be kept on remand, would instead either go back to their residences or live at the Our Home shelter in Prince Albert. The offenders will be supervised to ensure they are abiding by their conditions, which usually will include a curfew.
Lori Ahenakew, who works for the John Howard society, explained she will sit one-on-one with the offenders to understand their needs and help them meet those needs. Ahenakew said for example, if someone needs addiction services support, she will help them get access to those services.
“We really need to address those issues. They’re deep personal issues that they’re going through and that’s what I'm here for, to help them with that,” she said.
Ahenakew also said because a lot of the offenders are coming from outside of Prince Albert, she will try to help them build a connection with their community and will find the alleged offenders activities and services in their own community.
Boldt said that keeping these type of inmates in remand is not only costing the ministry millions of dollars each year, but it is taking away space from those who should be in jail due to more serious offences.
“We need to ease some of those pressures in the correctional facilities by getting folks that should be out in the community out in the community faster. But also, [we're] ensuring that we’re looking at public safety, so if they should be in jail, they should be staying in jail on remand,” said Boldt.
The program was originated after a 2016 Provincial Auditor’s report had a list of recommendations for the Ministry of Justice. The audit looked at costs of remand, lack of programing for sentenced inmates, and the fact that those kept in remand shouldn’t be there, because they are technically innocent until proven guilty.
Inmates who are eligible for the program will be supervised to ensure they are abiding by their conditions. Should they breach their conditions, they will be immediately taken back into custody. Prince Albert is one of the three cities in Saskatchewan to first introduce the program. Saskatoon and Regina have also implemented similar programs.
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