Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“A Remand Centre is Always Maximum Security…”- The Mayor of Burnaby


I would urge you to support the Stop the Prison Effort in Lumby by attending an information session and rally at the Lumby Community Hall Wednesday, February 23rd at 7 pm. Together we will stop the outrageous plan to locate a provincial remand centre in Lumby that will serve the entire Okanagan and Kootenay’s.

I invite you to read some interesting comments from the Mayor of Burnaby contained in this email.

For years, Leah Cleevely's home has been under siege by people released from the Surrey Pre-Trial Services Centre. Cleevley is unsure what will happen to her neighborhood now that Surrey has been awarded an expanded centre where construction is due to begin this spring. Elevating her anxiety is the fact she runs a daycare out of her home.

Every week, she has inmates who have been released coming to her door wanting to borrow matches or use the phone, and bikes and other items have been stolen from her yard. Living within shouting distance from the existing pretrial centre, Cleevely often hears inmate’s cat-calling women who walk by.

But in Surrey the jail is still located as part of a large public service complex that includes a courthouse and the facilities inmate population dwarfs the community population. The vision in Lumby is very different where the proposed inmate population could easily swell to between 700 and 1400 and could nearly double the village’s population.

However, there are still supporters for the remand centre proposal, and they believe it to be a safe option for the village. Mayor Kevin Acton continues to insist a correctional facility should be considered as a way of bolstering Lumby’s economy.

“I’ve talked to six mayors where there are facilities and they all said positive things,” he told the Morning Star on February 3rd.

“If one mayor raised concerns, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”

Well, I contacted one Mayor that has a number of different kinds of correctional facilities in his community and he provided me with enough information that should cause Mayor Acton sleepless nights all the way to referendum day.

Comments from Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan to Don Elzer
I'd like to clear up some misconceptions about remand centres. I am a former corrections officer, parole officer and criminal lawyer, so I have considerable knowledge about the justice system. In my experience, a remand centre is always maximum security. People are remanded because they are awaiting disposition by the courts. As a result, people who are awaiting trial for murder, robbery, sexual assault and other serious offences can be held in remand, along with people who have failed to appear for court, failed to make bail or are awaiting transfer to other jurisdictions. This makes remand a more difficult facility to run because people have such varied offences and there is a constant movement of prisoners.

In addition, as prisoners make bail or are released, they are usually released either from court or directly from the remand facility. It is reasonable to be concerned about the release of inmates into a small community and it is also reasonable to be concerned about the people who will be visiting the facility and awaiting the release of their friends or relatives.

Once the land is zoned for institutional use, it is likely to continue as such for future functions. It is most likely that it will always be a correctional facility of some kind, because the province invariably stretches the use of a prison well beyond its expected longevity and well beyond its expected capacity. In Burnaby, by the time we persuaded them to close Oakalla, frequent and seemingly easy escapes during the last years of the prison's life were a major issue in this community - at the end the facility was so derelict that inmates could have cut their way out with their plastic spoons. Lumby needs to know the legacy they may be leaving for future generations of Lumby residents.

This government wants everything to be built and operated by the private sector under the guise of 3P agreements. If you trust that the private sector will place the public interest above their profits on the project, then you should be fine. I must confess that having our prisons run by Joe's Prison and Catering Services out of Arkansas makes me a little nervous. After all, escapes can have very serious consequences.

I think all politicians can persuade themselves that public reaction will subside and the bitterness will blow over. In order to be taken seriously, citizens need to convince them that their memory will last much longer. We need prison facilities in our urban centres, but not at the cost of local communities and neighbourhoods. It makes sense to have remand facilities attached to court houses to minimize prisoner movement and other long term facilities in outlying areas, away from population densities. Of course, sensible solutions do not reflect political priorities.

Mayor Derek Corrigan
Mayor of the City of Burnaby
Mayor Kevin Acton and his supporters are in the process of changing Lumby from a diversified economy back to a one industry town – a prison town. The influence on the community will be overwhelming; the mere thought of potentially doubling the village population with prison inmates boggles a rational mind – to place it in perspective, if this were happening in Vernon it would be comparable to building nine federal penitentiaries each housing 3500 inmates.

Vernon would never accept such a proposal and if it would have happened in the past, Predator Ridge, Sparkling Hills Resort and many other attractions would have never located there.

Lumby deserves a better future than a jail, on April 30th vote “No” to the Remand Centre Proposal and send a powerful message to government that we are a proud and independent community.

Don Elzer


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I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.