Community split on prison

  • Mar. 16, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Opinions within the community remain divided on whether Summerland should seek to host a provincial correctional facility.

A survey gathered after a public meeting on March 7 about the proposed facility showed 52 per cent of the 297 votes cast were in favour of having the centre in Summerland while 45 per cent were opposed with three per cent undecided.

Of the five Summerland locations presented, the first choice was to build the facility at the site of the proposed Summerland Hills Golf Resort.

The Ministry of Transportation’s gravel bed at the northern edge of Summerland was the second choice, with the Cartwright Mountain location, the Fenwick Road location and the Gilman Road location in third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.

Mayor Janice Perrino said eight of the 298 people who completed the survey following the public meeting had changed from opposing a prison in Summerland to supporting it, while six who had earlier been in favour of the prison were now opposed.

Perrino added that the final decision on where the prison will be built rests with the province. “It will not be our choice; it will be their choice,” she said.

Council is continuing to hear from residents about the proposed facility.

At the municipal council meeting on March 14, Brian Adams told council the correctional facility will benefit the community.

“I believe a correctional facility in the community is very important,” he said.

He added that he does not believe such a facility will detract from tourism in the area.

Dave Hellard said the decision to bring in a prison should be made by the community, not just by council.

“It’s an even more important decision than the RCMP building,” he said.

He added that careful planning and consideration is needed when deciding on whether to pursue the facility.

“Whether it’s a golden egg or a goose egg, get the facts to make a decision,” he said.

The 360-unit correctional facility will be constructed somewhere in the Okanagan by 2015.

According to Brent Marchant, assistant deputy minister of the B.C. Corrections Service said 53 per cent of those in the facility will be remanded and awaiting trial while 47 per cent will be provincial prisoners serving sentences of two years or less.

Provincial prisoners are serving sentences for crimes such as break and enter, theft, robbery, cannabis trafficking and other similar offenses. 

Those in remand are awaiting trial on charges ranging from thefts to murder and sexual assaults.