A riot at the jail in Dartmouth on Wednesday underscores the importance of negotiations with the federal government to build new correctional facilities, said Justice Minister Cecil Clarke.
The afternoon riot broke out after 59 inmates at the Central Nova Scotia Scotia Correctional Facility refused to leave a common area and return to their cells.
Justice officials said the inmates broke windows and set numerous fires when guards ordered the second lockdown in two days. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.
Clarke told CBC News that all was quiet at the jail Thursday morning. He said he expects a briefing later in the day on what happened and why.
The number of inmates at the facility has spiked and includes convicted offenders serving their sentences as well as accused offenders awaiting court dates. Correctional workers have complained that the jail is overcrowded and problems arise because of double-bunking, where two inmates live in a space designed for one.
Clarke said the Nova Scotia government is in talks with the federal government for money to build three new jails in the province, allowing Nova Scotia to “lead North America.”
“The reality is, in responding to public concerns and dealing with those issues, [it] has increased inmate population levels within the facility,” Clarke told CBC News.
He also said his department is trying to find ways to reduce the flow of inmates between jail and court, such as using video conferencing.
“If I could pinpoint one thing, we would deal with it and that would solve everything. So it’s not just the number of people in the facilities, it’s where they have to go in and out of them,” Clarke said.
There have been a dozen cases where prisoners were mistakenly released or escaped from custody in the last few years. The Justice Department says it has implemented 17 of 51 recommendations from a review of policies and procedures within correctional services.