Conditions in Sask. jails need improvement, ombudsman says

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Saskatchewan's ombudsman says living standards at correctional facilities in the province need to be improved.

In particular, Mary McFadyen said the jail in Saskatoon is "just dirty" and in disrepair.

McFadyen, Saskatchewan's ombudsman and public interest disclosure commissioner, released her 2016 annual report Thursday morning.

She said in 2016, the ombudsman's office received over 3,400 complaints within its jurisdiction — 22 per cent more than in 2015.

The highest volume of complaints — 27 per cent of the total — were directed at the province's correctional centres.

Ministry accepts recommendations

In the report, four recommendations were made to improve living conditions in correctional facilities across the province. It follows an investigation at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre where McFadyen found makeshift dorms, cramped spaces, and a lack of cleanliness.

"Corrections should establish cleaning standards and protocols, and standards for inmate accommodations, beds/mattresses, privacy and the use and availability of toilets and showers — and it should ensure these standards are met," she said in a news release.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Drew Wilby said the government is already acting on those recommendations.

Wilby said just because people are in jail, does not mean they should live in poor conditions. 

"It is someone's home," Wilby told reporters. "It could be two weeks; it could be two months; it could be one day less than two years. Some folks on remand are there for four to five years."

Investigating municipalities

The report also noted there were over 500 complaints made about municipalities. It was the first full year in which the office had jurisdiction over all 780 municipalities in the province.

One-third of those complaints were about council member conduct — including three investigations into conflicts of interest, which were publicly reported on in early 2017.

"Residents need to know their council members are acting only in their community's best interest," McFadyen said. "Council members need to know what to do when their private interests conflict with their public duties."

In 2016, the ombudsman made 25 recommendations to nine government entities.