PRIESTVILLE, Nova Scotia — The new Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (NNSCF), being built in Priestville, is on track for a fall completion. It will replace two older and smaller correctional facilities located in Antigonish and Amherst, which are both scheduled for decommissioning later this year, said Tim Carroll, superintendent of the new facility.
Halifax, Nova Scotia-based JDA MacKenzie Architects (acquired by Stantec Consulting last fall) is serving as the architect on the project, and Mississauga, Ontario-based BIRD Construction is the general contractor. Construction broke ground in July 2012.
The 204-bed facility is a provincial correctional facility, which only holds inmates that have a court sentence of incarceration up to two years or less. Most of the inmates in custody are held an average of 90 days and are waiting for their trial. The facility, however, meets maximum-security standards. It also offers rehabilitative and employment-related programs including Genereal Equivalency Diploma classes, addictions’ counseling, spiritual and cultural services and options to anger.
Nova Scotia Correctional Services (NSCS) incorporated best practices from correctional facilities across North America in terms of facility design, operation and technology, Carroll said.
“Firstly, there is a tremendous amount of natural light throughout the facility due to strategically placed skylights and larger-than-average windows,” Carroll said. “This allows both offenders and staff to remain connected to the world outside of the facility walls at all times.”
Carroll added that the NNSCF will be the first adult direct-supervision correctional facility in Nova Scotia, designed to reduce the number of incidents of aggression in correctional facilities. The NNSCF has also incorporated leading-edge technology, such as Ion Scanners, advanced CCTV surveillance and electronic door control systems, into its security systems and equipment.
Like any project of this size, challenges have occurred during the process. “The project team has done a great job troubleshooting construction schedules, managing design modifications and working within budget constraints,” Carroll said.
Carroll accredited communication as being a major factor in helping with any challenges. His biggest priority throughout this process has been communication between the project team members, as well as the public.
“Having a correctional facility 'in your backyard' can generate a lot of concern,” he said. “In 2012, I established a Community Liaison Committee to ensure there is timely and accurate exchanges of information between the project team and members of the surrounding communities. As a result, there is a very positive and supportive relationship between the NNSCF and the community.”
Once the facility is completed, it will require 130 staff, including 100 full-time positions and 30 relief staff, for operations. It requires almost 90 more staff members than the two facilities being replaced. The first line of security at the facility will be the officers working there, Carroll said, followed by the advanced surveillance cameras installed throughout the facility.
“The facility’s size [as in total capacity] and geographic location will allow NSCS to effectively manage the provincial adult offender population utilizing four correctional facilities,” Carroll said. “Additionally, the use of video-conferencing equipment in the facility will reduce the quantity of offender transports to and from court, alleviating pressures on Sheriff Services and Court Services.”