Kris Austin Remains Firm On Need For A New Jail

New Brunswick’s minister of public safety spoke out Tuesday about the need for a new provincial jail over what he calls an “overcrowded” prison system.

In a statement released by the Government of New Brunswick, Kris Austin said the province’s jails remain overcrowded “regardless of how anyone chooses to interpret the numbers.”

“Throughout the discussions surrounding the plan to build a jail in Fredericton, no one has suggested or shown this is not the case,” he said in the statement.

“Overcrowded jails are a safety issue for inmates and correctional staff and the safety of those individuals is our top priority.”

Austin’s comments come after CBC New Brunswick reported the province recently started counting people serving their sentences in the community as part of the jail population.

The recent change makes the correctional system seem more crowded than it actually is, according to the CBC.

It also follows the City of Fredericton’s council meeting on Monday night, which saw councillors approve a zoning amendment to allow the province to build a new jail in the Vanier Industrial Park.

Austin says crime is rising across New Brunswick, citing the province’s Crime Severity Index has been the highest among the Atlantic provinces for the last five years.

He adds it’s also 20 per cent higher than the national rate and that the province’s crime rate increased by 26 per cent over the past five years.

This has not been independently verified by NB News Now.

Austin said in the statement the department continues to “work with partners to find innovative solutions to keep people out of the corrections system.”

“The department has to be able to safely take care of those who are in jail and this means having proper facilities with enough space,” he said.