FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Public Safety Minister Kris Austin:

Recently, there has been a media report regarding the number of inmates at the province’s jails. Inmate counts include everyone sent to jail by a judge, even inmates who are outside a jail temporarily. The counts do not include anyone ordered by a judge to serve a sentence in the community, and they have never included anyone other than persons sent to jail by a judge.

Regardless of how anyone chooses to interpret the numbers, the fact remains that the province’s jails are overcrowded. Throughout the discussions surrounding the plan to build a jail in Fredericton, no one has suggested or shown this is not the case. Overcrowded jails are a safety issue for inmates and correctional staff and the safety of those individuals is our top priority.

Regardless of where one stands on building a jail, there are three facts the department cannot ignore.

One, there is a legal obligation to house everyone sent to jail. The problem cannot be solved by turning offenders away.

Two, crime is rising across New Brunswick. New Brunswick’s Crime Severity Index has been the highest among the Atlantic provinces for five consecutive years and is 20 per cent higher than the national rate. The province’s crime rate increased by 26 per cent over the past five years.

Three, the province’s population is growing. According to Statistics Canada, New Brunswick’s population grew by more than 40,000 between 2017 and 2022.

While continuing 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.