A program that allows inmates to access cultural programming and participate in sweats is expanding to four more provincial correctional facilities.
The expansion of the Cultural Lodge program to the Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert correctional centres, along with Kilburn Hall Youth Centre was announced as part of $6 million in correctional facility upgrades revealed Friday.
The cost to expand the program is estimated at $920,000. It currently runs at Pinegrove, the provincial women’s prison in Prince Albert, as well as at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre in Regina.
“Through the cultural lodge program, the ministry delivers cultural programming,” explained Noel Busse, a Ministry of Corrections and Policing spokesperson.
“Those would be cultural programs designed to help offenders rehabilitate, reflect and build links to their culture and communities. There’s a large component in the … program where elders work with offenders.”
The buildings provide programming space and year-round sweat lodges.
While Busse didn’t have any numbers regarding the use of the program, the said it is “generally appreciated” by the inmates and that the ministry has seen “positive results from it.
“It allows inmates to connect with their culture and gives them a pathway to reintegrate into their community. It’s one of the methods we have to reduce reoffending by offenders.”
While the program has been a hit, face-to-face cultural programming with elders and chaplains has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Offenders, though, are still able to contact elders and chaplains by phone. The phone calls are free and privileged, meaning offenders can expect some level of confidentiality.
“They’re not able to meet in person with the people they might normally be able to,” Busse said.
“They need to be supported during COVID-19 as well.”
The expansion of the cultural lodge program to Prince Albert Correctional Centre isn’t the only funding allocated for a nearby correctional facility.
Razor wire upgrades are coming to Pine Grove and the Prince Albert Correctional Centre. Correctional centres in Saskatoon and Regina are also slated for an upgrade. That project is expected to cost $450,000.
“There are security measures in place at our correctional facilities — one is the razor wire,” Busse said.
“It would be a replacement, just like you would have things at our house you would replace or eye replacing on a regular basis. We monitor things like this across the facilities and make sure we replace them before they become a concern.”
Other projects announced Friday include a $65,000 expansion to the Prince Albert Youth Residence, $110,000 for kitchen upgrades at the Regina Correctional Centre and $4.6 million to replace the urban camp and related facilities at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
About $150,000 will be used to replace the porcelain toilets in the detention area at Regina’s provincial court building with stainless steel toilets and sinks designed to reduce the potential for self-harm.
The design and construction of the projects are expected to take place over the next two fiscal years.
“These projects will modernize our existing facilities to ensure they provide a safe environment for staff and offenders,” Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said in a press release.
“A large portion of this investment will go toward modernizing programming that helps rehabilitate offenders.”