A Prison in Summerland, BC? No: Oliver.

Correctional facility approved for Oliver, BC

Archive for the ‘Summerland Town Meeting’ Category

Inmates will stay in the community

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BC Corrections could use some correcting

In a post from June 16, 2011 titled “BC politicians on the downside of prisons”, ex-Mayor Gordy Robson of Maple Ridge tried to warn us, that BC Corrections were not upfront when making promises to the communities in which they had facilities, and in fact the Ministry of Public Safety had violated their ‘good neighbor agreement’ with Maple Ridge.

Gordy Robson had also said that “. . . whatever promises they are making now, they will not live up to.  The evidence here in Maple Ridge is that Corrections will not admit or honor the agreement they had, and that is very disturbing”. 

Inmates DO stick around

In contrast to Corrections BC’s claim in their fact sheet that convicts don’t stick around when released, Mr. Robson also said that released inmates in Maple Ridge are just dropped off at the bus station and some decide to stay.

The following is the Q and A from the official Okanagan Corrections fact sheet put out by the Ministry of Public Safety:

Q. What happens to the inmates when they are released? Where do they go?

A. It is important to realize that in most cases, inmates are not from the area the correctional centre is located and want to return to their home communities. Sentenced inmates are always given a bus ticket to return to their community of origin upon completion of their sentence.

We already knew this was a crock from having spoken to several correctional officers. One CO from Surrey told me that remanded individuals and prisoners are only given bus tickets from Surrey Pretrial, IF they know to ask for one. This is entirely contrary to what Brent Merchant from BC Corrections had been telling us all along.

The correctional officer also told me that if a remanded inmates trial came up at 4:00pm and the paperwork didn’t come through until 10:00 that night, that by law they are forced to release them even if the buses have stopped running for the night.

Where are they going to go at 10:00 at night in Oliver with no buses running? For one, they might steal your car, which according to the CO’s we talked to, is a common occurrence.

MLA Terry Lake says “inmates stay in the community”

Feb 6, 2012 KFJC-TV  Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake praised this morning’s announcement, [re the Oliver prison], saying it will be a benefit for the crowded Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre. Lake says it’s a tough process to locate a facility like a jail, with some seeing the positives and others, the negatives…

Lake says both he and Mayor Peter Milobar have long been concerned about crowding at KRCC, saying when inmates are released, they often stay in the community and put pressures on local police.

Written by summerlandbc

April 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

Questions leading to more questions.

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Meeting of Ministry officials, council and citizens of Summerland

Some of the previously unanswered questions regarding the prison were addressed at the Monday, March 7 meeting in Summerland:

One of the misconceptions about the prison from the beginning, was regarding the number of potential inmates. This was due to the limited information from both the council and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General’s office. For example: a question and answer from the official Ministry proposal: Q. How many inmates will be in the prison? A. There will be 360 cells in 10 units. That’s like asking someone “How many people are in the restaurant” and their answer is “there are 54 tables”. Was this ambiguity intentional that led to a majority of people believing there would be 360 inmates? At the meeting we got the real answer; 720. But that’s 720 on day one when the prison opens its doors.

The Okanagan prison has come about in part due to pressure from the BCGEU on behalf of the Correctional Officers: “The announcement of a round of consultations (re new prison) is a step in the right direction,” said Darryl Walker, BCGEU president. “Our union has made it clear to the government that the serious overcrowding issues in existing facilities has led to increased tension and violence against correctional officers.” Reference

So if the prison opens with 720 inmates, how long before it is at 200% capacity? At that point we will have 1440 inmates in Summerland. Add to that a staff of 500+ and the inmates and staff will then account for 20% of Summerland’s daytime population.

The graph below is from a report prepared by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer for the Ottawa feds entitled Funding Requirement and Impact of the “Truth in Sentencing Act”. The paper was reviewed by an independent peer panel of nine, one of whom was Brent Merchant, Assistant Deputy Minister BC Corrections who was also the government representative at the Monday night meeting. Brent is obviously well aware of the overcrowding issues; he was chosen for a peer panel at the Federal level. However the fact that ‘BC experiences one of the worst double bunking rates in the country…’ was glossed over at the meeting.

Security Levels

In the official Ministry proposal, another answer to a question that had led to a lot of confusion was concerning the prison security level: Q.) What is the nature of the crimes committed by those in custody? A.) This new centre will be a secure custody centre, accommodating remanded individuals awaiting trial and those sentenced to fewer than two years. As such, they will represent a wide range of offense types. In other words; rape, murder, pedophilia, and drug trafficking which was in fact finally confirmed by Merchant at the Monday night meeting.

Why didn’t they just say so in the proposal and why was it so difficult to get an answer? Because no matter how you cut it there IS a stigma attached to a maximum security facility with these types of offenders, and we as residents of Summerland are just as affected by it as would be tourists. Remand centres house criminal suspects awaiting trial, which Wally Oppal Attorney General said would “face challenges with respect to transporting suspects to and from court dates.” And that stigma is one that will be felt in a town the size of Summerland by both the people who live here and visitors who are witness to the top level security vans coming and going.

Dangerous cargo

Low Morale in a Dysfunctional System

For the second straight year the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre has the worst Workplace Environmental Survey (WES) score out of nine provincial Correctional Centres. “There is a poisonous work environment, chronically low staff morale and other problems that must be urgently addressed.” BCGEU Manager 1 Reference

“It sounds like a really depressing place to work but I just love it”. Merchant said at the meeting. But he doesn’t work in a prison; he sells the concept of them and doesn’t have to deal with the daily life on the inside. The WES scores of Correctional Officers is a very clear indication that this is no dream job no matter how much money they are paid. It’s dangerous, prisons are overcrowded and it is by the Ministry’s own admission a system in disarray.

“When you are thinking of a jail, think of it like a small community; like Summerland.”. said Merchant. The difference is that Summerland is a functioning small rural town with caring, friendly people and a promising future. It is hard to imagine that if we were to import a highly dysfunctional system into this community that it wouldn’t have serious and long lasting repercussions.

Written by summerlandbc

March 11, 2011 at 12:16 am