Penticton and South Okanagan
New prison: jobs and risks
Oct 9, 2013 / 2:09 pm
Residents expressed concerns ranging from the risks of having a new correctional centre in the Okanagan to what the job opportunities will be, at a special council meeting in Penticton Wednesday.
People at the meeting wanted to know what bringing a prison to the area will mean.
"Any risk assessments done now are not available to the public, and when this is built to full capacity, what is the catchment area for social services," said speaker Loraine Stephanson. "To me this is huge, a great big experiment that needs more explanation."
Senior officers from the BC Corrections Branch were on hand to answer such questions from the public and council, as well as provide details on the timeline and other pertinent information related to the facility.
According to Brent Merchant, assistant deputy minister, one of the biggest reasons the new facility is being built is to ease pressure at the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre.
Currently the goal is to have shovels in the ground by the spring of 2014, with the design and construction phase taking place until September, 2016.
Three proponents, now short listed, preparing their bids include BC Community Partners, Brookfield-Ellis Don-Fengate Justice Partners and Plenary Justice. Those bids will be evaluated in December, with a decision to be made soon after.
Staff training and set up will take place from September to December of of 2016, with the expected move in late in 2016.
In terms of job opportunities, there will be 500 direct jobs and 500 indirect created during construction, and 245 correctional staff will be hired.
Starting out, 55 to 60 per cent of those employees will come from other centres, with the remainder from the local area. There are also two large contracts for healthcare and food services.
They will be hiring a warden from another correctional centre in the not too distant future.
BC Corrections has also partnered with the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce to provide a business registry to capture interest from local contractors, service providers and job seekers. People interested are advised to register at www.sochamber.ca.
In terms of risks related to the Okanagan Correctional Centre, Merchant said one of their goals over the next few years will be to have communities understand exactly what they do.
"It is different than what people expect, and I wish I could convey that to the public in general," he said. "We are not a drain on the medical side of the equation. People in our centres are British Columbians with the same needs as any others."
The presentation included a look at the BC Corrections Branch mission and mandate, a virtual tour of its nine provincial centres and developing a strategic plan for community engagement.
Among the statistics they offered were 56 per cent of clients have a mental health or substance abuse issue.
Leading Councillor John Vassilaki to suggest it would probably be a lot better for the province to put in hospitals to cure these people rather than imprisoning them.
"I wish the province had better foresight in dealing with our hospital, rather than with a remand centre," he said.
Mayor Garry Litke, however, thanked the officials for focusing on the local aspect, and opportunities for local contractors and job seekers.
BC Corrections is slated to make other presentations Wednesday in Okanagan Falls and Oliver. They will be in Osoyoos on Thursday.
In February, 2012, the BC government selected the Osoyoos Indian Band's proposed site in the Senkulmen Business Park, north of Oliver on Highway 97, as the preferred location for the 378 cell, high security facility.
Read more Penticton / S. Okanagan News
City of Penticton
Penticton Discussion Forum
Penticton & Wine Country Chamber
Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen
District of Summerland
Summerland Chamber & Tourism
Town of Oliver
Town of Osoyoos
Town of Keremeos
School District 67 - Okanagan Skaha
School District 53 - Okanagan Similkameen
Okanagan Regional Library
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