NEWS

Minimum-security prisons: 4 things to know

09/16/2013 11:13 EDT | Updated 11/16/2013 05:12 EST
The weekend escape of a Hells Angel member from a prison in Laval, Que., has raised questions about the security measures at minimum security prisons in Canada.

René Charlebois had been at the Montée St-François Institution serving a sentence for, among other charges, killing a police informant. He escaped on Saturday.

- Hells Angel René Charlebois escapes from Laval prison

There are no details as yet about how Charlebois managed to flee, but last year, two other inmates at Montée St-François escaped in the same week.

Here’s a closer look inside the world of minimum security prisons.

Most of the inmates in minimum security prisons are people who have graduated from maximum and medium security facilities and are close to being reintegrated into society. Minimum security prisons house offenders who are deemed the lowest security risk.

Unlike more restrictive facilities, minimum security prisons generally do not have fences or other secured perimeter structures.

Offenders live in rooms or dormitories rather than cells. Housing complexes in a minimum security prison consist of individual rooms, washrooms, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen. Each bedroom has a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and a TV.

According to the Correctional Services Canada website, inmates are responsible "for the cleanliness of their rooms" and that their bed is "made at all times when not in use."

Because the inmates are seen as a low security risk, minimum security prisons allow inmates largely unrestricted movement within the facility, as well as opportunities for day parole and work placements in the community.

According to the Corrections Service Canada website, these facilities “offer an open correctional environment that encourages offenders to take on responsibilities for day-to-day life.”

All programs in a minimum security institution operate with an eye to reintegrating inmates into society at the end of their term.

Inmates have access to a variety of programs, from social groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to hobby activities such as wood carving and drawing.

Minimum security prisons also offer education classes, from basic literacy to computer studies. Depending on the facility, inmates may also take advantage of employment opportunities — in the kitchen or library, for example, or even off-site in a community service capacity.

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