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Mayor Tom O’Brien has all kinds of rationale as to why a proposed new prison for the province should be located in Stephenville.
“We look forward to the consulting firm engaged by government for the design of the prison and site location coming to Stephenville and evaluating the merits of locating the institution here,” O’Brien said at a council meeting Thursday.
The provincial government announced in February that Vancouver-based Parkin Architects has been contracted for design and site selection of a new federal prison to replace Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s. Parts of that prison are well over a century old, and advocates say it’s in desperate need of repair.
The province is spending $235,000 on the site-selection process.
O’Brien said there is a long history of corrections in Stephenville, including the West Coast Correctional Centre that’s currently in town. He said the facility has had success for more than 30 years and has a capacity for more than 50 inmates.
An exchange service agreement with the federal government to house federal inmates at the correctional centre in Stephenville has been effective and efficient, said O’Brien, and the facility is currently offering beneficial programs.
The mayor said another advantage is that a large RCMP detachment is located in the town with more than 30 members, modern equipment and services. There is availability of provincial court, legal aid, crown attorney and private law offices, along with the presence of the John Howard Society and support services at Westbridge House.
O’Brien listed off a number of other services, including the presence of denominational churches and chaplaincy, which currently provides regular visits to the West Coast Training Centre.
He told councillors that other penal institutions in Atlantic Canada are not located in the larger centres, but rather in smaller communities.
In New Brunswick, there is one in the rural Northumberland Country community of Renous, which has a population of 1,200. The prison opened in 1987 with a capacity of 287. Dorchester, a New Brunswick community with a population of 1,400, has a prison with a capacity of 350 inmates. The Nova Scotia prison is located in Springhill, a town with 4,000 people.
He said when the Women’s Correctional Centre was located in Stephenville its services were nearly unmatched. He said the town also has the land that could be made available for the prison.