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Province shuttering DCC

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In a move that appeared to catch many community leaders off guard late last week, the provincial government has cut about 80 jobs in Dauphin, by announcing the closure of Dauphin Correctional Centre (DCC) this spring.
While in Dauphin, Jan. 24, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen explained the closure will make way for an $11 million renovation and expansion of Dauphin Courthouse.
Pointing out the historic building is the pride of the Parkland, Cullen noted, attached to the courthouse is a 1917 corrections facility.
“So clearly when we look at aging infrastructure, there’s a number of challenges in both of these facilities and a lot of these challenges have not been addressed,” he said.
“So we’ve certainly reviewed the situation around this particular infrastructure and what we’ve determined is we’re prepared to make an investment in the courthouse, to make sure we’re meeting today’s contemporary standards.”
The province recognized the challenges within the corrections facility, Cullen said, and determined the best value would be to use portions of DCC in renovating the courthouse.
“To make the courthouse more accessible and user friendly, not just for the staff, but the users of the facility, as well. So it was a decision clearly not taken lightly, but with all the issues in context,” he said.
Operations at DCC will begin winding down, Cullen said, and are expected to cease by the end of May.
The closure affects about 80 employees he noted, working as Corrections officers, plus administrative and nursing staff.
Staff were notified of the closure, just prior to the announcement, he said, as well as Manitoba Government Employees Union (MGEU).
“We will have several discussions ongoing now with the union, the Civil Service Commission, in terms of the rollout and how staff will be dealt with going forward,” Cullen said.
“We do have a number of vacancies within Corrections right now. We think there will be opportunity for movement within Corrections. So we’re optimistic there.”
MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky reported members in Dauphin have been blindsided by the announcement.
“The staff up there are going through a huge range of emotions right now, it’s a rollercoaster. They’re upset, they’re scared. They don’t know what this is going to mean for them, for their careers. They don’t know what it means for their families, for their whole community,” she said.
Regarding the approximate 60 inmates currently in DCC, Cullen confirmed they will be moved to one of the six other adult correctional facilities in the province. The highest occupancy in Manitoba was 2,450 inmates in 2016-17, he said, and it is now around 2,100 inmates.
“If you look at our headcounts today, we’re about 250 inmates below our high watermark,” he calculated.
Cullen confirmed the closest facilities to Dauphin are in Brandon and The Pas, which may create some hardship for families of inmates. However, in modernizing Manitoba’s justice system, he said, the province plans to update technology to do its job better and make it easier for families to stay in contact with inmates.
“Certainly when we’re looking at this $11 million investment in the Dauphin courthouse, we recognize we’re going to be making investments on the technology side in terms of video conferencing,” Cullen said.
“We don’t want to be shipping Manitobans across the province. We’re looking forward to a day when less people are on the roads and we have the technology, and that video conferencing capability, so that these individuals can be in front of a judge.”
There is an opportunity for change, he noted, particularly with increasing the capacity for restorative justice in local communities, as Manitoba Justice has diverted approximately 5,000 cases a year through restorative justice.
Restorative justice is for individuals not committing major crimes, Cullen explained, ensuring they are provided tools and programming to get back to being a positive part of society.
“So this is an evolution as we go forward,” he added.
An inquest report into the death of an inmate at DCC was released in December, noting the age and design of the facility contributed to the man’s death.
While he did not say the report influenced the decision to close the facility, Cullen affirmed DCC does not meet current standards.
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“And obviously that’s something that we have to consider. I certainly know there were changes made to the facility prior to that report being made, but again, we want to make sure that any of these facilities meet these modern standards,” he said.
The promise of a new a new correctional facility in Dauphin was made by the previous government in 2013, 2014 and 2016, Cullen said, adding the current government never made a commitment to the project.
“Since we came into office, obviously looking at the numbers and capacities, we had to make a decision about a facility that’s built in 1917 and whether that fits today’s standards. That’s why we’ve been looking at this for some time,” he said, noting the decisions announced last week align with the goals set out under the Criminal Justice Modernization Strategy, which was released in March 2018.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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