A contractor has been selected to build expansions to the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre and Kenora Jail.

The projects, which will add 50 beds to each facility was announced last fall and last month, the Ministry of the Solicitor General announced it had selected Bird Construction Inc. to do the work.

Not only will the expansions help address overcrowding issues, but will expand access to programming and services.

“Our government continues to take action to enhance the safety of front-line staff while working to improve programming for inmates, including supports specifically tailored for Indigenous individuals,” said Sylvia Jones, the solicitor general, in a news release. “We remain committed to working with front-line staff and our justice partners to strengthen our corrections system and public safety in the North.”

The expansions to the two facilities will help address chronic overcrowding issues while plans for a new Thunder Bay Correctional Complex, to replace the aging Thunder Bay District Jail, are still underway.

Construction on the expansions are expected to begin this month and be completed in spring of 2022.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford said this is a key milestone in the expansion projects.

“The expansion on both sites will ensure Northwestern Ontario’s justice system is equipped with safe and modern facilities that are responsive to the needs of Indigenous people and communities here in the Northwest,” he said.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said these are much-needed improvements that provide more culturally relevant and inclusive supports for inmates.

“It is vital that Indigenous inmates remain connected to their culture as Ontario works to provide long-term solutions for these facilities,” he said. “This modular infrastructure will help alleviate pressures from overcrowding and we welcome these interim improvements for the safety of inmates in Kenora and Thunder Bay.”