Prison announcement awaited

Officials and residents in several Okanagan communities are still waiting to learn where a proposed prison will be constructed.

Mayor Janice Perrino said an announcement should be made within the next two weeks.

“We’re expecting it any time now,” she said.

Several Okanagan communities have submitted sites for a proposed prison to be built in the Okanagan.

When the prison was announced last year, Mayor Janice Perrino said she did not want to see the facility in Summerland.

At the time, she said she would prefer a technology-based business or a green business instead of a jail.

The 360-cell prison is to be constructed in the Okanagan within the next five years, although a community has not yet been selected.

Five potential sites in Summerland were identified and in the end, a site used as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s gravel pit on Highway 97, was chosen as part of the South Okanagan application to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

It is north of Cristante Avenue and west of Highway 97.

Perrino said the site announcement will allow Summerland to determine its next course of action.

“One way or another, we’d just like to know,” she said. “We’re just waiting to hear.”

Of the prisoners in the facility, 53 will be remanded and awaiting trial for various offenses while 47 per cent will be serving sentences of two years or less.

The average length of stay for a prisoner in remand in 37 days while the average length of time for a prisoner serving a sentence is 72 days.

The criteria for a prison in the Okanagan, from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, call for the following:

• A buildable area of about eight hectares

• Narrowest dimension should be more than 170 metres

• Serviced, including electricity, gas, water and sewer

• Minimal negative environmental conditions

• Minimal probability of a First Nations claim to aboriginal title

• Maximum probability of expeditious appropriate zoning

• Not in the Agricultural Land Reserve

In winter, a survey was conducted on the possibility of a prison in Summerland.

Of those who responded, 485 people or 56 per cent of the respondents were in favour while 384 people or 44 per cent were opposed.

While the municipality’s survey was not scientific, Perrino concluded from the results that the public wanted further examination into a facility in Summerland.

Lumby, Summerland, the Penticton Indian Band and the Osoyoos Indian Band have submitted sites for the proposed facility.