KAMLOOPS — BC Corrections held a grand opening ceremony this morning for the new $200 million Okanagan Correctional Centre north of Oliver.
The jail is being hailed as a potential source of relief for the nine other correction centres in BC, many of which, like Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, are overcrowded.
BCGEU Vice President of Correctional and Sheriff Services Dean Purdy says it's a good news story.
"The need for more capacity is greater now more than ever. Our nine jails are all over capacity. With the overcrowding comes violence, and every study proves that. Hopefully this will spread out the inmate population and make things safer for both our officers and our inmates."
Purdy says KRCC has a 40-to-1 inmate-to-officer ratio, and that has led to a dramatic increase in violence.
"Between 2014 and 2015 violence, and assaults on correctional officers rose by 39 per cent, and that is unacceptable. In that same period of time the percentage of inmate on inmate assault rose by 42 per cent, so it is a big concern for us."
"We are hopeful that the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre will be able to move a number of the inmates down to the new facility, keep open the living units but bring down the officer to inmate ratio in that facility so that the violence goes down, and things are calmer. You know they aren't running at 140 to 160 per cent capacity anymore."
Purdy notes the new jail is expected to become operational by early January.
"The corrections branch has also assured us that by opening this new jail it will not result in any closures of any existing jails in B.C. including KRCC. So that is a relief, as we were concerned about that. Hopefully it will effectively it will reduce the overcrowding levels, and the violence."
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