Penticton wants answers about impact of nearby prison on crime | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton wants answers about impact of nearby prison on crime

Oliver Correctional Centre
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

What happens to inmates after they complete their sentences at the Oliver Correctional Facility?

Penticton Coun. Helena Konanz wants to find out how many stick around in her community, which is 35 kilometres north of the prison. It was a promise of hers during the recent election campaign.

Stats from earlier in 2022 show Penticton has a disproportionately high level of crime

During the regular council meeting yesterday, Nov. 15, Konanz asked the rest of council to support the her fact-finding mission. She proposed council ask how many inmates from Oliver were dropped off in Penticton over the past 12 months by writing the Minister of Public Safety and Attorney General responsible for B.C. Corrections. Should council not receive a timely response then a Freedom of Information request will be submitted.

She said crime was clearly the number one issue during the 2022 campaign.

“Many people in Penticton are not feeling safe, especially the elderly and those living alone,” she said to council.

“Promises were made by the provincial authorities when the prison was built that when inmates were released that they were given transportation back to the community where they committed their crime.”

Former inmates were known to have relied on the Greyhound bus station in Penticton. But now that it’s no longer in service, Konanz wants to know what other transit solutions are in place.

Beyond the safety of locals, Konanz said Penticton probably isn't the best place for former inmates to concentrate, as they are often in greater need of social services, and the city of 36,885 isn’t big enough to provide the facilities that would address such complex demands.

“We’re too small of a community – we’re not Kelowna, Vancouver, Kamloops,” she told council.

Six out of seven councillors supported Konanz’s idea. The one dissenting vote came from Coun. Isaac Gilbert.

“My only concern ... it perpetuates that fear and stigma that people are coming into our community as criminals and are causing the crime here,” Gilbert said.

“Yet if we as society are saying to ourselves that jail is the punishment, I don't think we need to keep continuing punishing people who have come out of jail who are trying to rehabilitate their lives when they come back to their community. That’s where I see this might be going.”

Coun. James Miller said there’s no harm in asking.

“I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the root of the problem but certainly a lot people believe that and I think it’s council’s responsibility to ask that question,” Miller said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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