A Prison in Summerland, BC? No: Oliver.

Correctional facility approved for Oliver, BC

Archive for the ‘The Problem with Prisons’ Category

Do the math

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Letter sent to District of Summerland Mayor and Council:

I’m writing you to express my strong opposition to the idea of a prison operation in Summerland. How did we get here? By making life as difficult as possible for a viable residential and golf course development, chasing out a dried-fruit operation, and spending more money on a fix for the water treatment plant – the result of extremely poor engineering. So now we feel pressed economically to entertain a prison for this town?

People who complained about the character change of having a golf course development – are they not concerned about this character change? We have some of the most desirable real estate in all of Canada – and we are thinking of putting a prison on it? What we need to do is rebuild our reputation as a place to do business – the prison is not the image I’d be looking forward to advertising in the future. Be leaders and speak out clearly what you really believe – a golf course would be light years better for this town in the long run.

Just a bit more info for you all to ponder – call it prison math:

365 days a year divided by the average stay per prisoner (stated by Corrections to be 56 days) = average turnover per bed of 6.52 times x 720 beds (360 cells with 2 beds) = 4,694 prisoners moving through this facility in a year – based on 100% occupancy.

We are told B.C. prisons are currently operating at just under 200% capacity.  With Harpers new ‘Tough on Crime’ legislation and the invoking of Bill C-25 – we can only expect more and more people to be locked up for a period of time.  It is expected that this facility will very quickly be at 100% capacity and in the future even over capacity.  Consider the above math at 165% of capacity (B.C. 2009/2010 provincial average) the figures change to:

365/56 = 6.52 x 1188 (720 x 165%)= 7745 prisoners moving in and out of the facility per year.  Remember our population is only 11,700

Now consider how these folks leave the facility and our town:  picked up by family, friends (gangs), and the closest Greyhound station – which in our case is right across from the schools. (consider also Attorney General Wally Oppal’s quote: “Maximum security remands have a habit of being a breeding ground for further gang activity.”)

Here’s one study done in the U.S. on prisons in small rural areas indicating the economic effects are in fact the reverse of what was anticipated. Research indicates prison towns experienced less growth than non-prison towns and prison towns actually had a greater increase in unemployment and poverty.  Reference

I was a supporter of the golf course, I was in favour of releasing some ALR land to support the Kettle Valley Dried Fruit operation – so you cannot brand me as anti business. I am truly concerned we will be discouraging other businesses or retirees from moving here if this prison comes to town, and will attract a host of other unexpected negative consequences as per the above article.  My trust in dealing with the government on these facilities is also not that strong – look what happened to us with Interior Health – Kelly Care and our hospital. So what happens when the Government decides to adjust their grant rates – downwards?  It is not inconceivable with provincial government deficits a growing concern.  Risk versus Benefits?

Written by summerlandbc

April 6, 2011 at 5:24 am

Importing the drug culture

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Death of a Drumheller inmate

Justin Wood, an inmate at Drumheller medium security prison died October 31, 2010 from a drug overdose. His family want to know how the recovering crack cocaine addict managed to obtain drugs inside a secure facility dedicated to drug rehabilitation. Justin’s father, David Wood said; “It was harder to stay away from drugs inside than it was on the street. They were always available. There’s something wrong with the system that allows the kind of things that get in there to get in there.”

How drugs get into prisons

There are five main routes for illicit drugs to get into prisons. The use of each route and the traffic flowing along it will alter from time to time and from place to place. The routes are:

  • ‘Over the wall’
  • Visitors
  • Post and parcels
  • Reception and remand prisoners
  • Through corrupt staff

Source: Correctional Services Canada: Gangs and Drugs Symposium; Disrupting the supply of illicit drugs into prisons

Continued drug use in Canada’s prisons is troubling

Ombudsman Howard Sapers said the continued drug use in Canada’s prisons is troubling. “In any penitentiary, prisoners are generating pressure for people to be involved in illegal activity outside the institution, so people are being pressured or muscled to have visitors attempt to transport drugs inside the institution.”

Despite a new emphasis on increased security and screening in prisons, in Alberta guards still find drugs, on average, twice a week. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers president, Kevin Grabowsky said they constantly see new and creative ways of getting the narcotics inside. “They’ve been stuffed in dead birds, tennis balls and pop cans before being thrown over two fences. Guards have even intercepted drug containers strapped to arrows and shot over the fence by bow. It gets to be a never-ending job.”

Drumheller RCMP Staff Sgt. Arthur Hopkins says the methods employed to get drugs past security and into the hands of inmates are often surprising and the efforts near constant. “There are acts being performed by people coming into this facility that you would find absolutely disgusting. For instance, you have a mother coming to visit her husband and she’s carrying her six-month old . . . child and she’s got drugs hidden in the diaper.”

“They have the drugs concealed within their body. How far do you want to give the correctional services the authority to search those people? We have defence attorneys that are coming up and they’re testing positive on the ion scanner to say they’ve been close to cocaine in the last little bit.” Hopkins has also seen cases of contract workers threatened to bring in narcotics. “(Inmates) use intimidation on some of the people — the non-guards, the contractor workers, the plumbers — they have something on that plumber and are doing something to cause him to bring drugs into the facility. There are so many ways to smuggle drugs,” said Hopkins. (Postmedia News)

Drumheller spokesman, John Shannon said: “It’s not uncommon for staff to find cellphones, which are banned. “They (prisoners) use them to make drug deals. These people are connected out there.” (Edmonton Sun)

“Almost 80% of offenders arrive at federal institutions with some level of substance abuse problem, and many have multiple addictions. CSC works closely with local police agencies and communities to stop drugs from entering its institutions.” said Correctional Service of Canada spokeswoman Sara Parkes. Toronto Sun



Written by summerlandbc

March 20, 2011 at 1:14 am

Millbrook Penitentiary – a blight on the landscape

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a social failure and a failed economy

Millbrook: a prison community from 1957-2003.

A friend of mine lives in Millbrook, Ontario, where there WAS a prison. Then Premier Mike Harris decided to close it and build a new facility, so the old facility just stands there, empty; a dismal failure; an expensive and sad derelict. I think that you’ll agree that it’s no enhancement to the area.

Failed system - prison

The text below is what my friend who was an art professor at the University of Toronto had to say about it:

Millbrook lost it’s maximum security jail some years ago, when Premier Harris wanted to – and did – streamline warehousing into two provincial super jails. This community was given the opportunity to apply as a ‘willing host’ and compete for the honors of a remand/maximum security penitentiary. It divided the community, those who wanted the growth and tourist traffic of visitors between the Ottawa River to the east and Hwy 400 to the west: It was privatized to boot. There were 1500 to 2000 inmates. 1500 inhabitants/citizens below in the valley.

Failure of the prison system

We, the artists were appalled on moral grounds, but we did the math and made a case against the venture on economic grounds and were the only group to be vehemently against it. The four congregations had no trouble with it.  We were branded as effete elitists who never worked a day in their lives. It got nasty. I happened to find out that this political apple was predetermined to be given to Lindsay, next door:  At least some 40,000 citizens to absorb them and benefit from the windfall.

  • it’s hated by the guards
  • lower inmate/guard ratio than before
  • no rehab
  • bad morale
  • just warehousing of the inmates
  • little or no economic gain for Lindsay

We are still blamed for having spoiled a marvelous opportunity for growth even though we were just token competitors: a ‘willing host community’ sounds like lemmings begging to take part in a bedbug experiment.

Is yours a fait accompli or do you still have chance to nix it?  ‘Remand’ is the worst!

Written by summerlandbc

March 12, 2011 at 12:47 am

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Prisoner escapes police transport van in Vancouver

Prisoner escapes on the way to Halfway House

On March 8, 2011, Jason Michael Dagenais, 33, a convicted robber, was being transported to a Vancouver halfway house, when he jumped out of a moving police vehicle. Police said in a release: “He is currently serving a two-year sentence for robbery and has a very lengthy and diverse criminal history, including violence.” (He is reported to have told a therapist he fantasizes about kidnapping and killing children.) “The Correctional Service of Canada has assessed Dagenais as a high risk to re-offend violently.

Dagenais has the following special conditions:

  • not to be in or near any locations that are frequented by minors, including parks, community centres and schools
  • not to be found in the company of anybody under 14 years of age

If these special conditions were pre-determined regarding his moving to a halfway house, then the parole board were obviously aware of the dangers. So why release him from prison? This is one of the inherent problems with the corrections system. The police have no jurisdiction over the prisoner as they are only acting on orders. Technically Dagenais may have been deemed to be rehabilitated however the special conditions indicate that all involved were aware of the risk he poses to society. The system has technically worked properly as he had apparently served the sentence given to him by a judge and was about to be reintegrated into society through a halfway house. However it is cases like these that are glaring examples of how problematic and complex the whole system is.

Dagenais is obviously not rehabilitated but everyone’s hands are tied. He was sentenced for robbery, not for killing a child. However the next time he’s picked up it may be a different story.  It’s not clear whether he was being transported from a minimum or maximum security facility but either way this type of problem and its complexities are no match for a small town like Summerland. It is yet another example clearly illustrating the dysfunctions of the system as a whole.

Update March 12: Jason Dagenais was arrested after he allegedly robbed a bank on Commercial Drive. He is now facing a charge of robbery and remains in custody.

Written by summerlandbc

March 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm