Saint John Correctional Facility
The Saint John Correctional Facility is a medium-security prison located just outside the city of Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada. Opened in 1993, it houses both remand and sentenced adult male offenders in the province. With a current capacity of 254 inmates, Saint John Correctional plays an important role in administering sentences and providing rehabilitation programs. However, it has also faced controversies around overcrowding, understaffing, and contraband drugs infiltrating the facility. As Saint John Correctional approaches its 30th anniversary, both upgrades and new strategies are being implemented to improve security, living conditions, and reintegration services.
History and Background of Saint John Correctional
Saint John Correctional Facility was constructed in the early 1990s to replace the aging Saint John County Jail in the center of the city. With Saint John’s population on the rise, a larger and more modern facility located outside the urban core was deemed necessary to house the increasing number of offenders.
Opening and Early Years
The new prison was opened in March 1993 with an initial capacity of 154 inmates. The first warden was Ron Thompson, a veteran corrections officer who oversaw the transition from the old city jail. In its early years, Saint John Correctional focused on strictly administering sentences rather than extensive rehabilitation programming. However, educational courses, religious services, and work opportunities were made available over time.
Key Events and Developments
Over the last three decades, Saint John Correctional has undergone physical upgrades and added more reintegration services:
2002 – New cell block added, increasing capacity to 214
2009 – Substance abuse counseling and anger management introduced
2015 – $2 million renovation for improved security and technology
2020 – Additional housing unit created for 40 more inmates
Facility Operations and Layout
As a medium-security prison, Saint John Correctional is surrounded by a guarded perimeter with controlled access points. Inside, the layout allows for strict movement rules but also recreation and skill-building opportunities.
Prison Structure and Design
The architecture comprises five main cell blocks, an administration wing with offices, as well as a large central program and activity space. Outdoor areas consist of a sports field, weight pit, and enclosed yards for fresh air. The perimeter has motion sensors, cameras, and regular patrols.
Cell Units and Housing
Inmates are housed in separate cell blocks based on security risk, sentence length, and special needs. Each block has tiers of single and double-bunked cells along with shared bathrooms and showers. Maximum occupancy reaches up to 40 prisoners per unit.
Amenities and Programs
Inside the main program building, inmates have controlled access to a library, school classrooms, chaplaincy, cafeteria, and gym. Some vocational programs include construction, welding, hospitality training, and garment manufacturing.
Population and Demographics
Saint John Correctional was built to house offenders from the southern New Brunswick region. It currently holds an average of 240 male prisoners between the ages of 19-50.
The majority of inmates are serving sentences for non-violent crimes such as theft, fraud, drug offenses, and breach of probation. Around 18% are convicted of violent crimes including robbery, aggravated assault, and manslaughter. Most have struggled with poverty, addiction, and lack of education.
Staff and Officers
The facility employs 85 full-time staff including correctional officers, program instructors, administrative personnel, and mental health providers. Officer duties range from patrols and security checks to escorting inmates.
Life in the Facility
For prisoners, daily life inside Saint John Correctional centers around strict schedules, rules, and limited choices. But some opportunities exist for self-improvement and preparation for release.
A typical weekday routine consists of scheduled washroom visits, cell inspections, meals, programs, work shifts, exercise times, and lights out by 11 pm. Movements are highly supervised with set routes and checkpoints.
Meals and Commissary
Inmates eat their meals inside the cafeteria in assigned seating. Food quality varies from processed items like hot dogs to more nutritious stir fries, soups, and stews. A small commissary shop allows prisoners to buy snacks, toiletries, cards, and clothing using account funds.
Recreation and Free Time
Free time usually takes place in the shared activity spaces or exercise yard. Inmates can play cards, board games, basketball, or work out. Scheduled program slots also give prisoners a constructive break in routine.
Rules and Discipline
As an incarcerated population, strict rules and sanctions apply inside the facility for safety and security.
Inmates must follow instructions, respect boundaries, avoid violence and intimidation, and not use drugs or possess contraband. Violations lead to disciplinary action.
Repeat or high-risk rule breakers can be isolated in a segregation unit away from the general population for extended periods. This aims to prevent disturbances but causes distress.
Rehabilitation and Education
While serving sentences, inmates are encouraged to participate in rehabilitation for successful re-entry after prison.
Some vocational programs teach construction, food services, manufacturing skills. Work opportunities also exist for janitorial duties, kitchen rotation, laundry, and groundskeeping.
Counseling and Support Groups
Prisoners meet in group or individual settings to talk through their offenses, trauma, addictions, and ways to shift mindsets for prosocial living. Faith services are also available.
Issues and Controversies
In recent years, Saint John Correctional has grappled with capacity challenges, threats to safety, and contraband entry.
As more offenders enter the system, crowded conditions make it difficult to access programs and oversight requires more staff. Tensions also arise between prisoners sharing small spaces.
Safety and Security Concerns
Cell searches have revealed objects fashioned into weapons for self-protection or intimidation. Gangs and violence emergence require preventative tactics. Drug overdoses also occur inside despite strict rules.
The Future of Saint John Correctional
Improvements inside the aging facility along with new community partnerships aim to enhance security, rehabilitation priorities, and successful outcomes.
With inmate levels projected to keep increasing, planning is underway for added housing units, program areas, and outdoor recreation spaces needing $18 million in funds.
New violence prevention and addictions recovery programs will hopefully better prepare prisoners for release. Continuing education, parenting courses, and community volunteer mentors could also bridge gaps.
As Saint John Correctional Facility moves into its fourth decade, enhancing safety plus supporting inmate transitions remains crucial. An ongoing evolution towards balanced treatment, skill-building opportunities, and understanding root causes can help men incarcerated here make lasting changes. Although the facility is still plagued by overcrowding, contraband issues, it continues serving its purpose housing and rehabilitating offenders in the region. With strategic upgrades to infrastructure and progressive reintegration, Saint John Correctional can become an innovative model for institutional success and societal reentry.
Q: Where is Saint John Correctional Facility located? A: It is situated 15 km east of Saint John city center in the Millidgeville area of New Brunswick, Canada with easy highway access.
Q: What is the total inmate capacity?
A: Originally built for 154 prisoners, current capacity sits at 254 in separate cell blocks after expansion additions.
Q: How long do sentences range for inmates? A: Sentences range widely from brief remand of just weeks or months to over 10 years for more serious crimes. Most inmates likely serve under 5 year stays.
Q: What types of jobs do prisoners perform? A: Inmates carry out facility maintenance like laundry, kitchen work, janitorial duties. Some vocational programs teach construction trades, hospitality, textiles manufacturing.
Q: Can family or friends visit inmates at the prison?
A: Yes, visitation sessions are allowed once or twice weekly for about an hour each in the main visitor area under supervision of guards.