Maximum security female prisoners will be moving into Alouette Correctional Centre for Women (ACCW) within two weeks after a $45-million upgrade to the prison was made.
One hundred and four "secure custody" cells have been added to the women's prison - which previously just had medium-and open-security areas - and 55 full-time correctional officers have been hired.
On Tuesday morning, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond joined Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton, and the prison's warden Dawn Kelly in officially opening the new building.
Bond said that BC Corrections is undergoing its largest expansion in provincial history - $185 million is being spent on expanding prisons, including the Alouette facility and a new pre-trial centre in Surrey.
Women who are incarcerated tend to be in worse physical shape and weaker than their male counterparts, said Kelly.
They are often undernourished and have significant addiction issues.
Services for the women at the Maple Ridge prison includes nursing care around the clock, five sessions with a medical doctor per week, a mental health coordinator, and dental services.
"We'll have the full gamut of services women need," Kelly said.
A 20-woman-strong tactical team has been specifically trained to deal with emergency situations at the prison.
Kelly said the all-female tactical team will help maintain the "privacy and dignity" of women prisoners in an acute situation.
The new maximum security area is divided into four pods, with a central control area above that looks over all the areas and grates on the floor to monitor and communicate with the pods below.
In mid October, 70 female inmates are expected to be transferred from the Surrey Pretrial centre to ACCW.
While the cells are fairly standard, they also include some details to help women, for example, three-step ladders for higher bunks.
They also have a television - bought using the inmate benefit fund, not from tax dollars - and Bond said she hopes they won't be used just for entertainment, but also to deliver educational programs.
"Many, many inmates have very low literacy levels," Bond said.
The Elizabeth Fry Society provides programming to the female inmates at the Maple Ridge prison, and Marla Chandler-Soanes of the society was at the official opening ceremony.
"We're excited about the opening of this facility, in particular because moving women from Surrey pretrial to ACCW will enhance their ability to participate in vital programming," Chandler-Soanes said, which will "help them plan for success by accessing resources including housing, employment opportunities, and family reconnection."
Programs at the women's prison include emotions management, relationship skills, and substance abuse programs.
"We want it to be a place of hope and an opportunity for change," Bond said, adding that one goal is to reduce recidivism.