Renovations to inmate cells at the Yellowknife Courthouse – the final stage in a multi-phase modernization project – began late last week.
Rear cells within the 49 Street building will be “upgraded” in a bid to boost the security and safety of inmates and staff alike, stated Sue Glowach, a spokesperson for the GNWT Justice Department, in an email Monday.
When the current Yellowknife courthouse was established for the Courts of the Northwest Territories, there were only two courtrooms in operation, according to Glowach. Now, there are five.
“This work is necessary to increase safety for offenders in custody and those persons who work in or must visit cells, including RCMP, sheriffs, counsel and court staff,” stated Glowach.
The makeover will also help ensure the separation of certain inmates and offenders including those with no-contact orders, she added.
The renovations aim to “provide for secure private visit rooms for counsel and court staff to meet with individuals in custody,” stated Glowach.
Upgrades to the rear cells are expected to wrap up in July. In the meantime, there will be more back-and-forth transportation of inmates from North Slave Correctional (NSCC) and an increased use in video conferencing in a bid to “minimize the need of transfers for interim appearances,” stated Glowach.
For inmates awaiting a court appearance who are “unable to be otherwise housed within the courthouse,” as renovations continue, a new stationary prisoner transport vehicle will be used for “temporary secure detention of in-custody offenders,” she stated.
The large vehicle, which rests outside the courthouse inmate transfer area, often flanked by police vehicles, was acquired from the Alberta Sheriff’s office “at no cost other than the cost of transporting it to the NWT and some retrofit work …,” stated Glowach.
Those costs came in under $4,000, Glowach later stated.
Once renovations are complete, the vehicle will be transferred to NSCC to be used as an inmate transfer vehicle.
The first two phases of the renovations – completed in January after beginning in July – saw upgrades to the building’s lobby and former library area on the first-floor to bolster accessibility and to “reflect increased use” of the facility, stated Glowach.
The total price tag of the three-phased project is $949,655.