The medium security prison celebrated its fifth decade of operation at the start of October and on Oct. 5th opened a few doors to media to showcase some of the features inside Canada’s largest fenced-in facility.
There were ground-rules from the very start: no pictures of inmates to protect the privacy of prisoners and respect the feelings of victims; no pictures of staff unless they signed a consent form; no pictures of the fencing keeping prisoners inside the prison or from accessing certain areas of the prison.
Anything that could be used to compromise security, really, was off limits yet there was still much to see and learn.
Services inside the prison include education, soft job skills, health care, religious counseling and life-skills, but at the end of the
“No one has ever said they want to be here,” acting warden Sandy Ward said.
Springhill Institution has the capacity to house more than 600 inmates, but right now tends to less than 400. Nonetheless, there is a steady flow of inmates arriving and others leaving as the justice system does it work. In her own professional career, Ward says she’s seen changes to everything it means being inside a prison from the type of building used to the type of people hired and the programming. The 50th anniversary of the prison, Ward says, seemed like the right time to lift the veil on some of those changes.
“We wanted to show the public what we do here, that we’re not about shutting doors,” Ward said.
Built in 1967, Springhill Institution became a major employer to the community after coal mining concluded almost a decade earlier following a major mining disaster.
In the past
Besides housing medium-risk offenders the institution receives all incoming incarcerations for the Atlantic region. It’s here where prisoner profiles are determined before transferring them Springhill’s general population if they match the profile, Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B. if they are deemed a maximum security risk, or the multi-level Dorchester Penitentiary, which shares its grounds with the minimum security Westmorland Institution and the 50-bed psychiatric unit Shebody Healing Centre. Female inmates are housed in Truro, at the Nova Institution for Women.