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SUMMERSIDE – Starting next week, Summerside’s P.E.I. Youth Centre (young offenders) facility will start housing adult female inmates.
The Provincial Correctional Centre in Charlottetown, colloquially known as Sleepy Hollow, is P.E.I.’s primary corrections facility. When it was built in 1979 no women’s unit was included. The province has budgeted for the construction of a dedicated wing for women, but the project will not be completed before 2022.
Sleepy Hollow is also having to deal with COVID-19 health precautions, putting space in the facility at a premium.
With those challenges in mind, the decision was made to move some of the low-risk inmates to the Summerside young offenders facility, Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson told the Journal Pioneer.
“Due to COVID-19 health protocols, there is quite a pressure on our correctional facility in Sleepy Hollow. So, we really have to look at different options and measures on how we can deal with the capacity situation that we’re facing,” said Thompson.
The Summerside Youth Correctional Facility was built in 1988 on Greenwood Drive to house as many as 32 people in custody. The province is legally required to have a correctional facility to house young offenders, but changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act in the early 2000s resulted in far fewer individuals in that age group being held in custody. The facility has been sparsely occupied ever since and some of its space has been repurposed.
Part of the building now houses the Health P.E.I.’s Strength Program, which is a 12-bed in-patient addictions recovery centre for those between the ages of 15 and 24.
Another wing of the facility was renovated in 2011 and again in 2013 to house adult inmates. Changes to the Criminal Code around that time were causing more people to end up with short-term jail sentences and Sleepy Hollow needed overflow capacity.
The Summerside facility now has two units with eight beds each. One unit will house female inmates and the other will remain open for young offenders. If at any time more than eight young offender beds are needed, then the women in the other unit would transfer back to Sleepy Hollow.
Thompson stressed that the wings of the facility are separated, and the various patients and inmates won’t have any interaction with each other. He also said that no further renovations will be needed in order to house the women.
He also said that this move is not a cure-all for the challenges COVID-19 and other factors are presenting the Island’s correctional system, but it will help free up beds at Sleepy Hollow and ease some of the pressure on the system.
“It’s not going to solve everything, we’re still looking for other solutions and measures that we can take. It’s not easy, but staff is trying to come up with creative solutions,” said Thompson.