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Auditor general's report on Nunavut corrections expected today

03/10/2015 07:20 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
Officials with the auditor general of Canada will table a much-anticipated report on correctional services in Nunavut at the legislative assembly today at 3 p.m. ET.

It's expected the report will take a harsh look at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit. BCC was built more than 30 years ago to handle about 40 inmates, but there are often more than 100 men at the aging facility. A report by the Office of the Correctional Investigator found it "nothing short of appalling" and said it should be shut down. 

Defence lawyer James Morton calls it Nunavut's cardboard prison and says the walls in some areas are paper thin, with cells, built for two, holding five or six people, and snowdrifts in the yard that regularly limit inmates' access to fresh air.

"Being inside all the time is unhealthy and claustrophobic and frankly, makes it harder for the guards as well," Morton says.

Morton says an argument could be made that the overcrowding amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. That's an assessment Nunavut's deputy minister of justice, Elizabeth Sanderson, appears to agree with, according to a memo obtained by the Canadian Press.

Inmates like IolaLucassie say tensions inside the prison are reaching a boiling point.

"When you are there for 13 months straight with no contact with the civilized world or anything, just you yourself, it starts to bother you," he says. "It starts to play with your emotions. It just builds and builds and builds."

"It's been really hard for me just to try and maintain my composure."

The territorial government has earmarked $850,000 for repairs at BCC and a new minimum-security jail built beside the aging facility should relieve some of the overcrowding when it opens this spring.

Assistant auditor general Ronnie Campbell will be in Iqaluit to present the report and answer questions about it.

Similar reports were released last week in Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Both of those reports said the territories need to do a better job of rehabilitating inmates, as inmates aren't getting the programs or help they need to transition back into their communities.

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