saskatchewan penitentiary

Saskatchewan Penitentiary

The Saskatchewan Penitentiary is a federal maximum-security prison located just west of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. First opened in 1911, the penitentiary has a long and notorious history in the Canadian prison system. For over a century, the facility has housed some of the country’s most dangerous offenders.

Key Facts

The Saskatchewan Penitentiary occupies over 40 hectares of land and has capacity for up to 635 male inmates. The penitentiary is comprised of 6 separate living units surrounded by a guarded perimeter fence. It employs approximately 390 staff members.

Prison Operations and Layout

The layout of the facility features traditional cell blocks as well as common areas for meals and activities. There are workshops, classrooms, spiritual centers, health services, recreational facilities, visitor areas, and administrative offices within the complex. Extensive security measures are in place including watch towers, security cameras, motion sensors, and armed patrols. The prison cells feature barred doors and sparse furnishings.

Inmate Demographics

As of 2018, there were about 585 inmates incarcerated at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. This all male, adult inmate population consists of offenders assessed at all security levels from minimum to maximum. They are serving sentences for a wide variety of federal offenses including murder, organized crime, major drug offenses, major assault cases, and other violent crimes. About 15-20% of the inmates are convicted murderers serving life sentences.

See also  Edmonton Institution

Daily Life for Inmates

Inmates at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary must follow a strict schedule and set of rules. They are expected to work at jobs within the prison or participate in skills training. Jobs can include kitchen duty, janitorial work, groundskeeping, and manufacturing. Programs cover education, substance abuse counseling, anger management, indigenous services, and spiritual guidance. Leisure time allows for TV, exercise, games, and arts activities within their cell blocks. Visits and phone privileges are limited. Inmates have designated times for meals, showers, and lights out at night.

Controversies and Issues

Being a maximum-security environment with violent offenders attempting to assert control has led to many problems over the years including overcrowding, gang violence, drug networks, weapons smuggling, and attacks on guards or other inmates. The prison has dealt with multiple riots, hostage takings, and other major incidents requiring police intervention. Activists have often protested conditions at the facility and treatment of prisoners.

Notable Escapes From the Prison

The Saskatchewan Penitentiary has seen some dramatic escapes by inmates over the decades. In 1913, renowned Canadian jewel thief and prison escape artist Frank Bell managed to break out along with 7 others by cutting through bars on a prison gate. More recently, dangerous offender Aaron Sand was serving a life sentence when he escaped in 2008 by climbing over a security fence using a makeshift ladder. He was captured 60 hours later.

Living Conditions

As a maximum-security environment, living conditions at Saskatchewan Penitentiary are intentionally austere to punish and control inmates. Food meets basic nutritional requirements but lacks variety or quality to be considered appetizing. Healthcare is provided but critics argue mental health and addiction resources are understaffed. Each small cell comes furnished with only a bed, toilet, sink and desk. Access to recreational equipment, electronics or reading material is very limited compared to lower security prisons.

See also  William Head Institution

Rehabilitation and Education Programs

The prison offers standard rehabilitation programs including counseling, adult education classes, skills development, anger management, substance abuse treatment and spiritual guidance. Maximum-security offenders have limited spaces available in these programs. Efforts at rehabilitation are further hampered by the environment of violence, restrictive conditions, overcrowding and access to contraband. Recidivism rates remain high for former Saskatchewan Penitentiary inmates.

Future Expansions or Changes Planned

There are currently proposals to build new facilities, upgrade older blocks and increase staffing levels at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary due to overcrowding issues in recent years. Plans include enhanced treatment capacity for growing incarcerated indigenous and gang-affiliated populations. An expansion would also allow better classification of inmates by security risk. No firm construction plans have been approved yet by the government.


For over a century, the formidable Saskatchewan Penitentiary has confined the province’s and even the nation’s toughest violent offenders. While the facility aims to safely incarcerate criminals and provide opportunities for rehabilitation, its violent maximum-security environment and restrictive, austere conditions continue posing challenges. Yet plans are underway to upgrade infrastructure and evolve inmate programs for the future.


Where is Saskatchewan Penitentiary located?

Saskatchewan Penitentiary is located about 8 km west of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, near the rural community of Prince Albert West. It sits off Highway 11 on Penitentiary Road.

What types of inmates are housed at Saskatchewan Penitentiary?

It is an adult male maximum-security facility housing offenders assessed as posing the highest risk, such as murderers, violent gang members, major drug traffickers and dangerous repeat offenders. They are serving sentences typically longer than 2 years.

See also  List of prisons in Canada

Does Saskatchewan Penitentiary offer programs for inmates?

Yes, options are available for education upgrading, vocational training, counseling, indigenous cultural services, addiction treatment and spiritual guidance. However, space limitations hinder rehabilitation efforts in the crowded maximum-security environment.

Have there been any recent updates or changes at the prison?

Saskatchewan Penitentiary is currently over capacity. There are government proposals for new buildings to help classify inmates by risk, upgrade older blocks and increase staff. But no construction plans have been formally approved yet.

What should someone expect if visiting an inmate at Saskatchewan Penitentiary?

The visit will be strictly controlled, requiring approved visitor status, search/scanning and following designated visitor routes. Visits take place in small monitored rooms with no physical contact allowed between inmates and visitors. Expect an intimidating atmosphere.

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