edmonton remand centre

Edmonton Remand Centre

The Edmonton Remand Centre (ERC) in Alberta, Canada has a complex history, opening originally in 1979 and then replacing that aging facility with a modern, much larger complex in 2013. Even with its massive new capacity of 1,952 inmates, overcrowding persists. Let’s explore this iconic correctional facility’s past, present and future.

History and Background

To understand the ERC, we must first learn about its origins and path to becoming Canada’s biggest prison.

Original Facility

Opening and Capacity

The first ERC facility opened back in 1979 in downtown Edmonton. It was built to hold 388 inmates at a time.


The original cost to construct the 12-story remand center was $138 million. Even with those funds in the late 70s, accommodating nearly 400 prisoners proved challenging down the road.

New Facility

Due to capacity issues, proposals emerged in the 2000s to construct an enormous new facility. After years of planning, this mega jail set records when its doors opened.

Overcrowding Issues

At the original ERC, population swelled to 800 inmates by 2012 – far beyond initial capacity. Clearly, a larger center was desperately needed.

Proposals and Construction

The new facility’s construction started in 2007. By 2013, the towering $580 million ERC was completed, dwarfing all other prisons in Canada. But how massive was this new complex?

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Size and Capacity

The New Edmonton Remand Centre sprawls across 645,000 square feet with room for 2,000 total inmates. Even with immense capacity, filling available rooms has still proven possible.


All totaled, creating this modern correctional marvel cost $580 million CAD – no small sum indeed!

Technology and Sustainability

Despite its huge footprint, the structure incorporated updated tech and green building targets for LEED Silver sustainability certification.

Operations and Details

Now that we’ve traced the origins of this iconic institution, what happens inside its secured concrete walls on a daily basis?

Security Classification

The ERC deals with maximum and medium security detainees and prisoners at its downtown location. With nearly 2,000 spaces to potentially fill, maintaining control and order are top priorities.

Current Population

By 2011, even the new facility saw 800 inmates occupying its grid of small rooms. While not at absolute capacity yet, getting too crowded remains an ever-present concern.

Managed By

Overseeing operations is Alberta’s Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General – the ERC serves as a key pillar of the province’s correctional system.

Ministry Role

The Ministry juggles ensuring inmates rights are upheld with security and effective administration – a complex balancing act!

Notable Events

Over 4 decades, this facility has seem many incidents occur within its confines. We’ll highlight a few key developments.


When the new center finished construction, the old ERC closed permanently in April 2013 after standing over 30 years.

Future Plans

The obsolete original structure is finally set for demolition in 2023, making room for Edmonton’s evolving downtown.

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Comparisons With Other Facilities

To fully appreciate the ERC’s scale, it helps to explore how it measures up to other correctional operations.

Edmonton Institution

The maximum security Edmonton Institution also handles federal prisoners, but has far less capacity overall than the provincial ERC.

Impacts and Issues

Running this mega-jail for decades has also surfaced some drawbacks and controversies as well – let’s unpack a few.

Overcrowding Concerns

Despite having nearly 2,000 beds, overcrowding has been a near-constant challenge – even after openings new buildings.

Economics Debate

With $718 million spent in total on construction, critics argue cheaper options may have worked too. Proponents counter that both safety and rehabilitation chances improve in the new center.

Cost of New Facility

Outside groups also questioned if the $580 million price tag for the current ERC could have been reduced with different designs. However, unique architecture needs of jails likely prevented major savings.


In closing, Edmonton’s main remand facility has pioneered new approaches in Canadian corrections, for both good and ill. Staggering expansion projects addressed critical overpopulation, but costs and sustainability consequences also mattered. Balancing these factors remains key for the ERC’s future inside Alberta’s justice system and as a local landmark for years to come.


Q: When did construction start on the new ERC?

A: Construction on the massive new Edmonton Remand Centre began in 2007.

Q: What is the total capacity of the current ERC complex?

A: The New Edmonton Remand Centre can house 1,952 inmates at maximum occupancy.

Q: How much larger is the new ERC than the old facility?

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A: Over 5 times larger – the new ERC takes up 645,000 square feet, compared to the 120,000 square foot original structure.

Q: What challenges have remained despite the new mega-jail?

A: Even with nearly 2,000 beds, overcrowding persists as an issue. Plus critics debate the multi-million dollar price tag.

Q: Who oversees operations and management?

A: Alberta’s Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General handles administration and ensuring inmate rights.

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