Okanagan Correctional Centre needed

VANCOUVER, May 18 /CNW/ - The provincial government admits there is a need for a new correctional facility in the Okanagan, but is not doing any planning for such a facility and has not allocated any funds for a future jail, according to the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).

The union makes the charge based on an April 26 letter from the Deputy Solicitor General, David Morhart.

"We are very disappointed with the information we have received from the government," said Darryl Walker, BCGEU president. "It is clear that such a facility is needed, and the government admits that."

In the letter, Morhart writes, "We continue to recognize the long term need for additional capacity in the Central Interior and continue to consider the general Okanagan areas as the most appropriate location to meet the growing demand."

He goes on to say, "...there has been no recent planning on an Okanagan facility, nor has funding approval been secured."

"The Kamloops facility is overcrowded, with 40 to 1 inmates to guard ratios, and is at 389 inmates, well above the 168 inmate capacity that the jail was built for in 1989. There are also news reports that Kelowna's RCMP jails have been used to hold prisoners and they are overcrowded," said Walker.

"This kind of inaction has a rebound effect and forces jails like the North Fraser Pre-Trial Centre in Port Coquitlam to operate at more than double its capacity. North Fraser was built for 300 inmates and now has well over 600 with staff working alone in the living units, with up to 60 inmates," said Walker.

In January 2008 the government cancelled a news conference that was expected to provide details on a new correctional facility in Kelowna. No announcement has been made since then.

"At the very least the government should have some ongoing planning to build a facility in the Okanagan," said Walker. "Our jails are operating at 180 percent above capacity and the government's own Public Safety ministry service plan says it has reached critical capacity. The government already owns the land in Winfield and needs to be more pro-active on this file."

The letter from Morhart also says that there aren't any plans to expand or develop a new correctional facility in Kamloops.

A copy of the Morhat letter is on the BCGEU web site http://www.bcgeu.ca/okanagan_correctional_centre_needed

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information: For further information: Brian Gardiner, BCGEU Communications, (604) 291-9611

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