Mayor wants Stephenville to be site for new prison

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Frank Gale
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Tom O'Brien

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.

Organizations: Parkin Architects, West Coast Correctional Centre, RCMP John Howard Society West Coast Training Centre.He

Geographic location: Stephenville, New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada Northumberland Country Nova Scotia Springhill

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Recent comments

  • Joan
    March 21, 2014 - 05:56

    We lost the womens centre and there was NO need to. I think it was just a poor decision. The west coast has always survived but, as MAYOR O'BRIEN said We have the services here, the college, the John Howard Society, the medical services, The Y.M.C.A. about to open, the churches visiting the centre and the land. There is nothing we don't have, so WHY NOT locate it here!!

  • Kimberly
    March 20, 2014 - 11:14

    I think it would be beneficial for a new correctional facility to be opened in Stephenville. It's about time the Province dedicated some new developments and jobs to the West Coast. As someone who had to leave for work and relocate to Ontario due to lack of jobs I say fight for whatever we can get in our home town. Mayor O'Brien is correct in his observations. Good Luck Mr. Mayor!

  • Just Sayin'
    March 19, 2014 - 12:55

    Everything Mayor O'Brien is saying about building a new penitentiary in Stephenville makes sense. But there are two reasons it won't be: Stephenville is not St. John's, and Bay St. George is not the Avalon Peninsula. Even in the 21st century, both are still the elephants in the room in this province.

  • hua mulan
    March 18, 2014 - 09:08

    that would be possible, my old friend, tom, if you were to have an international runaway and modern airport facilities, and if such had been designated as one of five Canadian airports suitable as an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle, or such were designated for international scheduled air transport; besides, sir, what would people here say if the present architectural wonder sitting on the most remarkable landsite in Town were to be lifted from our mist!

  • Peter Rowsell
    March 17, 2014 - 19:46

    Great idea. Make your town cop the warden. I'm sure he will enjoy developing his miserable personality to its full potential!

  • Iris
    March 16, 2014 - 12:41

    I believe that this is an excellent proposal for the town of Stephenville. Despite the comments by St. John's Mayor that the correctional institution should be in a larger center, most Canadian correctional institutions are in smaller communities with lower populations and located away from larger centers. This information is available on the Federal Government website. So many things have been lost to St. John's in past years and this is something that can done well on the west coast of the province. Let's see if this is just one more thing that St. John's gets the funding for without even considering what the rest of the province has to offer.

  • Iris
    March 16, 2014 - 12:40

    I believe that this is an excellent proposal for the town of Stephenville. Despite the comments by St. John's Mayor that the correctional institution should be in a larger center, most Canadian correctional institutions are in smaller communities with lower populations and located away from larger centers. This information is available on the Federal Government website. So many things have been lost to St. John's in past years and this is something that can done well on the west coast of the province. Let's see if this is just one more thing that St. John's gets the funding for without even considering what the rest of the province has to offer.