Prison breakdown

Published on November 5, 2010
jail bars

Coalburn, Pictou County, became home to a new $31 million correctional facility this week.

The North East Nova Scotia Correction Facility will be built on 250 acres of land, next to Highway 104, east of Thorburn highway Exit 26. Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2011 and about 100 people are expected to employed at the new facility, which includes about 70 new hires.

The facility, with two beds per cell, will be built near Coalburn, next to Highway 104, east of Thorburn highway Exit 26. The site will provide quick and easy access to medical, police, fire and other services. The facility will service the courthouses in Truro, Amherst, New Glasgow, Pictou, Antigonish, and, to some extent, Port Hawkesbury.

It will relieve future pressures from other correctional facilities, including the one in Dartmouth. The facility replaces the aging Antigonish and Cumberland correctional facilities, which were built in 1948 and 1890 respectively.

Local politicians are quick to point out the economic spins off of such a project, both short and long term, but we decided to dig a little deeper find out what some of those benefits may be. Here are answers to some of those unanswered questions:


Geographical location

There is some dispute over which community in the Municipality of Pictou County will officially be able to claim ownership of the Northeast Nova Scotia Correction Facility. Some people say the jail will be in Linacy rather than Coalburn but PID# (Property Identification Number) under which the property is registered, lists the location as Coalburn, says Bruce Nunn, communications advisor with the Department of Justice.

 “Some local residents may have a colloquial understanding  where the boundary line between communities is drawn and it may vary person to person, depending on their perspectives. But the legal registry has the name as Coalburn.’’

Pictou County benefits:

County residents are expecting big spinoffs from the formation of a new jail, but no one can say for sure what the direct impact will be during the construction or residence of the building.

Employment opportunities: The Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility will employ about a 100 people. About 30 people are expected to transfer from Antigonish and Amherst, where jails there are closing. An additional 70 people will be hired here working in areas of: corrections, food service, maintenance and administration.

The Pictou County Chamber of Commerce:

“There will be jobs created through the construction depending on who wins the contract. How much will end up in the pocket of Pictonians,  we don’t know, but the creation of jobs is important. We have to assume there will be some relocation of residents with these people moving in. There will also be people needed to maintain the building. People generate business because they shop in local stores and we expect the trickle-down effect to be significant. The chamber sees this as a positive thing because in this economy we will take whatever we can get.

Pictou County Real Estate:

“It’s good news for the county,” said Real Estate Broker with Susan Green with Coldwell Banker, MB Green Realty. “Some of the people will be hired locally but hopefully some of the people will be under contract and have to move this way. We do expect some movement." 

Green said this is a new experience for Pictou County residents so she couldn’t tell whether current residents living near a jail would have their assessment values effected by the construction of such a building.

“It could go either way.”

Assessments might go up because people working at the jail may want to live near it or it could bring assessments down because people don’t want to leave near a correctional facility. “We really don’t have the experience right now.”

Valerie Chugg, broker/owner of Prudential Highland Properties Real Estate in Antigonish, said the Antigonish Correctional Facility sits in area surrounded by both residential and commercial residents and it has little effect on people looking for a new home.

“I just sold a house very close to it and it didn’t make any difference to the buyer,” she said. However, she said the Antigonish jail is old and has been in the town for many years. She said a newer jail may have a small negative effect some real estate sales because it will be fresh in people’s minds and there may be some security issues.

“This one has been here so long it doesn’t enter anyone’s mind,” she said.  

How to work in Corrections:

People who graduate from the Nova Scotia Community College’s corrections course have a high rate of employment, says the principal at the college’s Truro Campus.

Kevin Quinlan said the college offers a two-year course with enrolment of about 30 to 40 students.  However, new this year, it  is also offering virtual courses in Lunenburg, Springhill and Truro, meaning students can learn the same information but outside of the classroom in each community.

“It’s a good steady program,” he said. “Employment is good and the enrolment numbers are good.”

Most graduates choose employment as correction officers in federal and provincial adult correction facilities, halfway houses and the provincial sheriff’s department. Others work towards being probation officers, parole officers, halfway house supervisors, provincial native court workers and program co-ordinators at youth facilities.

“All students go to work-placement and the vast majority end up going to back to work for the (employer) after their work-placement is finished,” said Quinlan.

The Nova Scotia Community College said it always keeps an eye on the demands in a community, jobs and funding availability to determine more course will be offered.

Tendering process:

The tender for the new corrections facility will be given in “one lump sum” and it is expected to be called for in the spring, says the Department of Justice Communications spokesman Bruce Nunn. 

He said there will be a quick call for tenders with it being awarded in about four weeks after it is initially put forth.

Before the tender can actually go to the public, the government needs to finish up final details on the site. For example, a phase two environmental assessment has to be completed as well investigation into the site’s geo thermal capacity. Site boundaries and site topography all have to be done before Christmas as well, Nunn said.

“In December or January, they will take information about roads, parking, structural design and heating design and package it altogether as part of the final design for the building

“Over the winter months the final documentation will be reviewed,” he said, and they (the government) will be looking at what is required for the final tender set.”

He said it is estimated to take between 24 and 30 months to complete the contract.

Tenders will be called for such things as furniture, linens, clothing and possibly food for the new facility. All government tenders can be seen at Nunn said there may already be existing contracts in place for the food service, but times may arise when staff will use local businesses for special occasions.

He said the government does like to use local businesses to service their facilities. 

    According to a government report released this month on the construction of one jail, it states:

    All construction would occur in smaller communities in Nova Scotia:

Many of the trades people may commute daily or weekly, or only relocate temporarily, to the locales where the construction is occurring.

The majority of the inputs for the construction, e.g. concrete, steel, security hardware may come from Halifax, Moncton and other parts of Canada and potentially the United States.

Key Elements of a Modern Jail:

    Cells, offender day-rooms, offender program areas and recreational and outside exercise yards.

    Secure staff control posts

    Security and fire and life safety systems that meet current standards

    Appropriate support and ancillary spaces such as kitchen, laundry, health services, administrative and staff areas

    Security vehicle sally-ports to provide sheriff services and police personnel a  secure location to  load and unload prisioners.

    Specialized accommodations for:

    Intermittent offenders, so they do not introduce contraband into the regular population

    Overnight accommodation for youth and women when they are attending a local court or who are en route to a facility elsewhere in the province

    Separation and close supervision of high risk offenders

    Medial isolation of offenders

    Accessible entrances, washrooms, et cetera for offenders, staff and the public


    Who will be housed in the new jail:

    It is a provincial adult facility and offenders serving sentences of:

    Two years less a day

    Remand – the imprisonment of suspects before trial or sentencing.

Intermittent sentences – offenders are sentenced to jail time on the weekends because of work or school obligations through the week

Parole suspensions – Offenders who have violated their parole conditions

Federal prisoners waiting transfer to a federal penitentiary

Individuals detained  under the refugee and protection act.

In addition to male inmates, there will also be space available for female offender and youths who need to be housed in the area for overnight stays.

The jail will serve the northeastern region of Nova Scotia meaning that if a person is sentenced to jail time New Glasgow, Pictou, Truro, Amherst, Antigonish and some of Pictou County for crimes two years less a day, they will be sent to the new facility in Coalburn.

“This is where the province is really going to save money,” said Bruce Nunn, communications advisor with the Department of Justice. “A lot of offenders need to go back and forth for appearances and it’s all about travel costs such as gasoline, overtime and the wear and tear on the vehicle and health of the staff.”

About 60 to 70 offenders will be coming from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility that will reduce travel times to court and alleviate the overcrowding in the Burnside facility.

The design of the Coalburn site also allows for expansion in the future, if necessary, he said.

What is it like to live near a jail?

Halifax councillor Jim Smith said the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility has been a good neighbour to both the nearby residents and businesses.

“The Burnside facility is located in an industrial park, the far end of the park, with some residences near by,” he said. “There is a bus route to it now and a sidewalk, which both came when it was built. We haven’t had any difficulty. It looks more like a school setting.”

He said the biggest complaints came from the facility itself when it was having problems with smell from a nearby compost plant.”

Comments from the public:

    I think it should have been placed by Exit 21 in Westville.  That would have been a great spot for it next to the highway.  Norman Murray


    Martin Gracie

"It has to go someplace. Before the area didn't have it, now they've got


Pam Cross

"I'm pretty neutral. I'll see what it brings."

Priscilla Sexton

"I think it would be a good thing for the community. It'll make it a better

place, create jobs."

Devin Petroff

"It's a pretty good thing for this area with a lot of job opportunities for

people. It'll be a safer, better new jail."

Derrick Anderson

"I really have nothing to say about it. I'm undecided. This is the first

time I'm hearing about it."


    “It has to go somewhere and Springhill was dying for it. The spinoffs will be good for the county,” – Shirley Stewart


    From a practical and financial point of view it should have been built in Spinghill,” – Dan Stewart


    “I think it’s good and it will provide employment for people,” said Jim Gerrior.