Working conditions at the Kenora Jail came into focus, during the lead up to a potential strike two years ago. Since then, the province has taken steps to improve the situation.

A hostage taking and fire in Thunder Bay before Christmas of 2015 underlined concerns about the potential for unrest. The incident came during a tense year between corrections officers and management, leading up to strike deadline in early 2016. 

Cooler heads prevailed, and a settlement was reached in January of 2016. It included provisions for improvements to conditions.

At the time, overcrowding in the jails meant cells built for one person were holding three and four inmates. The province also promised to work to hire more staff, and new graduates were being made available to the jail last year.

Still, the minister responsible for corrections was forced to resign in December. His decision followed widespread criticism, particularly the excessive use of solitary confinement.

Earlier this year, a lawyer with the attorney general's office estimated 89 per cent of inmates at the Kenora Jail were Indigenous, and 90 per cent of them were presume innocent. However, they were incarcerated while awaiting court dates, since most couldn't meet bail conditions.

The province has been working on extensive revisions to the bail process.

Between 2013 and 2016, the province said they'd hired 571 corrections officers across the province, and they were planning to add another 180, with some to be located at the Kenora Jail.

In 2013, the operational capacity of the Kenora Jail was listed at 159 beds. At that time, there were 137 inmates, with 111 males and 26 females.

According to the ministry, 58.6 per cent of males released in 2008 and 2009 -- who were sentenced and remanded -- had a new conviction that returned them to a correctional facility within two years. For women, the percentage of women was slightly lower, at 48.5 per cent.

For more information:

Officers show support for jail guard

Hostage released from Kenora Jail






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