location: publications / books / Justice Behind the Walls / Sector 5 / Chapter 2 The Special Handling Units: The Corruption of Correctional Principles / Measuring Progress (II) -- The Voices of the Prisoners

When the final prisoners were transferred from the Prince Albert SHU to Quebec in the summer and fall of 1997, the Prince Albert Special Handling Unit became another part of penitentiary history. Like the Prison of Isolation before it, its distinctive existence as a super-maximum security institution was transformed and integrated into the larger penitentiary within whose walls it was located. Those walls themselves were and are likely to remain a very prominent feature of Prince Albert. The location of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in that city reflected political decisions made at the beginning of the twentieth century on the distribution of public works within the province, whereby Regina became the site of the Parliament buildings; Saskatoon, the university; North Battlefield, the mental hospital; and Prince Albert, the penitentiary. The Saskatchewan Penitentiary's status as the largest public building in Prince Albert was reflected in a major refurbishing of its red brick perimeter wall -- the only one of its kind -- during the last years of the existence of the Special Handling Unit. In reflecting on the few physical modifications that had taken place at the Special Handling Unit during the decade of my first and last visit -- changing the glass partitioning in one of the visiting booths from solid Plexiglas to a lattice work of steel -- and comparing those with the million dollars spent on re-finishing the perimeter wall of the main penitentiary, it would not be impertinent to suggest that the Correctional Service of Canada had demonstrated a greater commitment to communicating its permanence than to facilitating communication between the keeper and the kept.

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