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Jail closure will not be reversed: Cullen

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There is no chance the provincial goverrnment will reverse its decision to close the Dauphin Correctional Centre, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said during a conference call with reporters, last week.
“If you had an opportunity to visit the facility, you would recognize that it’s 103 years old. You know we’ve had judicial inquests into situations that have happened there - speaking of suicide. We’ve had the Office of the Fire Commissioner since 2008 raising issues around the facility. The previous government has had reports dating back to 2011 indicating that the facility is well past its occupancy. And nothing was done to upgrade that facility. It would be a very substantial investment to bring that up to today’s standards,” Cullen said, adding with 2,550 beds available in six other corrections facilities around the province and a total of around 2,200 inmates currently incarcerated, that investment does not make sense.
“So the decision was made, and again not made lightly. And we believe it’s the right decision for this particular facility, The red flags, the warnings have all been there for a number of years and no one has taken the decision. And we have taken that decision.”
Cullen’s comments came on the eve of a planned meeting with representatives of the concerned citizens coalition. The minister said he was looking forward to continuing a discussion about
“We’ve had, I think, a fairly open dialogue about this particular situation and also about the future of the Parkland. Obviously, we’re interested in creating some more jobs in the Parkland to help us grow the economy in that particular region, as well,” Cullen said.
“So I know there’s meetings being arranged in the community in the next couple of weeks, as well, to talk about opportunities that exist and how we can work with the individuals and the communities in the Parkland to create some more economic development.”
DCC Coalition representative Larry Budzinski is not as charitable about the quality of discussions that have taken place.
“It’s a little galling and frustrating, I guess, to have our elected members almost cavalierly tell you that you don’t matter,” Budzinski said.
“The seven people in blue suits that sat around and listened to us asked one question and it was a minor question. So I don’t think they were really interested in listening to us.”
Budzinski added the message they brought to the minister was clear, but did nothing to sway his resolve
“We made our case by simply saying that we thought there was a better way with this by delaying and letting the region work with the government and indigenous groups to build something better,” he said, adding the group suggested delaying the closure, but the idea was dismissed completely.
“And we pointed out to them that we’re getting unequivocally solid support from the community. There’s just nobody in our region that thinks it’s a good idea, so why would you do this?”
Budzinski added it was especially disappointing to see Dauphin MLA Brad Michaleski vote against a private member’s motion to build a new correctional centre in the area.
“That just shocks me. I can’t understand that,” he said
Budzinski said coalition members are not discouraged and if anything, are energized by the treatment they have received from the provincial government.
They have plans to attend Dauphin Kings games to collect letters and signatures to add to the 500 or so letters that have been mailed so far and the 6,000 names on a petition delivered to the Legislature last week.
“We’re not going to go way. We’ve got some things planned. There is some talk about legal injunctions and other strategies and we are quite optimistic that the other political parties are very interested in building something here or working with us and they’re doing their best to move forward on stopping the closure at least and providing some optimism,” he said.
NDP Justice Critic Nahanni Fontaine renewed the NDP’s call to commit to building a Healing Lodge and restorative justice centre in partnership with local First Nation and Métis leadership.
She noted a centre is needed in the area, so that families are able to visit with loved ones and support their healing journey.
“Pallister’s cut hurts nearly 100 workers and their families. He’s forcing them to pull their children out of school and leave their home community to find work,” said Fontaine.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We can create good jobs and address the root causes of crime so that our communities are safe and Manitobans are supported.”
That is a position Budzinski said the coalition and the community is willing to work toward.
“I think in the community, there’s been nothing but support. And I think we just don’t go away and we continue to write letters and call them and let people know we are upset and this isn’t suitable. People who are politicians represent us and they ought to listen to voices, especially when they’re completely unanimous on something. I think I’m more energized than anything through this sort of stonewalling. I think that the worst thing we can do is go quietly and accept this patronistic view.”