NWT tops nation for crimes
Government report points out problems with northern justice

Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 28/98) - A report released last Thursday paints a bleak picture of crime and corrections in the Northwest Territories.

The Evans report commissioned by the territorial government in 1997 shows the NWT to have the highest rate of violent crime of all provinces and territories in Canada. Sexual assaults are also eight times the national average in the NWT and the North has the highest incarceration rate in Canada.

"In a realistic and straightforward fashion, the Evans report chronicles the challenges of both the unacceptably high crime rate and how the corrections and community justice systems are coping with this situation," said Justice Minister Goo Arlooktoo.

Even though crime rates continue to escalate, the report also points out the challenges prisons have trying to keep up with demand for services. In 1996/97 the territories prisons were operating 43 per cent over capacity.

"This is more than just an overpopulation problem. A majority of persons in the territory's institutions are now there because of violence," said the report.

"Their risks and needs, and not just their growing numbers, have put additional stresses on staffing and budgets, and have meant that large numbers of prisoners are being held at lower security levels than is appropriate and have dramatically reduced the system's ability to deliver rehabilitation programs."

While the Evans report illustrates the problems with corrections, it also points out potential solutions.

It among other things recommends $500,000 annually to be put aside for treatment programs, development of an on-the-land program where in-mates can get healing and rehabilitation.

Arlooktoo wasted no time last week finding solutions to the problems brought to light in the report.

"I am pleased to announce... that the financial management board has approved and will seek the necessary supplementary funding to breath life into the plan," he said.

In his plan Arlooktoo will focus on community justice and corrections, outpost rehab camps, probation services for communities, support for victims and an upgrade of the Yellowknife Correctional Centre.