The federal and provincial governments are spending a combined $10 million for upgrades to the women's unit of the Provincial Correctional Centre in Miltonvale, P.E.I.
The new 22,000-square-foot addition will create a 22-cell secure housing area with 34 beds, says the jail's acting manager, Brooke Mitchell.
The existing jail is 40 years old and houses both men and women.
The new area will accommodate increased program support spaces, improved kitchen and staff facilities, and a new health services area that will separately serve both male and female populations.
It will include classrooms where women can upgrade their education and life skills. The addition will include separate maximum and medium security cells, where inmates can self-isolate if needed.
Space to hold their children
The visiting area will include space where mothers can hold their children.
"Some women who have children have lost their children to care so they do have a lot of unique needs and any of the programs and services that we have would focus on that," Mitchell said.
The federal government is investing $8 million toward the project through the COVID-19 Resilience Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The P.E.I. government is contributing $2 million.
Natalie Jameson, P.E.I.'s minister responsible for the status of women, said incarcerated women often have a history of trauma and many are themselves victims of crime, and the programs offered in custody must be responsive to their needs.
"How we support these women will absolutely influence how successful their healing can be. It is encouraging to see that the decisions that have gone into this significant capital project have had women and their needs in mind," she said in a news release.
Construction of the women's unit is expected to be finished next spring, with female inmates housed in the new wing next summer.
More from CBC P.E.I.