Benefits smaller than expected

Dear Editor:

After attending the public meeting on March 7 regarding the proposed prison or rather “correctional facility” if we are to be politically correct, I came away more convinced than ever that this would be a very bad idea for Summerland.

This would not be a minimum or even a medium security facility as we had been told originally, but would be built as a maximum security prison/remand centre, housing dangerous offenders on remand and those serving shorter sentences for lesser crimes.

Many of those speaking in favour of this proposal seem to think that the economic spin-off will be huge, with construction jobs initially, followed by numerous job opportunities within the prison system, all of course at union wages.

First of all, there is no guarantee that a construction contract will be awarded to a local company, in fact it is highly unlikely given the government’s record in the past.

The well paying jobs as corrections officers will be few and far between for local people. The majority of these positions will almost certainly be filled from within the system.

In addition, I would urge you to study the requirements for employment listed on the government website. Starting salaries and hours of work are nowhere near what most people would expect.

Another popular misconception seems to be that many of the staff, should this facility be built here, will choose to buy homes, raise families and shop locally. In fact, the many studies on this show exactly the opposite is true. Prison staff tend not to live in the area in which they work, choosing instead to distance themselves from their place of employment and from those people who are visiting inmates, all for obvious reasons.

We were shown how these facilities blend in with the surroundings. In large, densely populated urban areas, I would tend to agree, but not in a rural setting with a small population like Summerland. Located on any of the proposed sites, it will be an eyesore and will have a detrimental effect on property values generally throughout the region and in particular on neighbouring properties.

Trusted inmates under supervision are allowed to work in the local area on community work programs such as roadside clearing, park enhancement, etc. While this has merit on the one hand, it would be a very visible presence within the community and would only serve to add to the stigma which will inevitably accompany this project.

Please give serious thought to the legacy we want to leave for future generations. Once the zoning is changed to institutional, it will always be institutional and once a prison town, it will always be so.

The influence on this community will be overwhelming. Summerland deserves a better future than this.

Bernard Butler