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Competition to find jobs at new jail is already underway
The competition for close to 300 good-paying, full-time and permanent jobs at the new provincial correctional centre to be built near Oliver starting next spring is already underway and will continue throughout the construction phase until the jail opens in late 2016.
BC Corrections officials visited Osoyoos last Thursday evening . An audience of 45 local residents attended the presentation at the Sonora Community Centre.
The visiting team of dignitaries included Brent Merchant, the assistant deputy minister with BC Corrections; Pete Coulson, operations manager of the adult custody program with BC Corrections; Tedd Howard, the provincial director of capital with BC Corrections; Marnie Mayhew, the director of programs and strategic services with BC Corrections; and Michael Houle, the assistant vice-president of Partnerships BC, a new provincial agency designed to work with various provincial ministries in developing large-scale development projects.
The government employees explained how BC Corrections, the largest branch within Ministry of Justice, will be responsible for building and operating the new jail when it opens in late 2016.
They also talked about how the ministry has recently signed an agreement with the Okanagan Chamber of Commerce (SOCC) to have area residents and businesses register online if interested in working at or gaining contracts to provide services at the jail.
The SOCC has added a new “business registry” to its website and residents and businesses are now able to go online and provide information about their qualifications and reasons for wanting to benefit from the operation of the new jail, said Merchant.
If you are from the South Okanagan and surrounding area and are a supplier of good and services or are an individual looking for employment opportunities regarding the correctional centre project, you can register and the information will be reviewed thoroughly by the construction contractor who wins the bid to build the jail, he said.
This business registry is open to everyone and you do not need to be a member of the SOCC.
The business registry provides a unique opportunity for businesses to be seen, contacted and engaged by the bidding teams and ultimately, the successful bidding team, he said.
This business registry will be provided to the three proponents on a bi-weekly basis and once the preferred bidding team is selected in February, this registry will continue to be sent to them on a regular basis, up until the end of construction, said Merchant.
While the winning bidding team will ultimately have final say on who and which sub-contractors are hired, every effort will be made to hire tradespeople and contractors from the South Okanagan to build the jail and hire as many correctional officers and managers from this region as possible once the jail opens in late 2016, said Houle.
“The province recognizes this project presents a significant economic opportunity for the South Okanagan,” he said. “Part of the objective will be to use businesses and residents of the South Okanagan to take advantage … local resources, contractors and employees.”
The contract language the winning bid team must agree to with the province will include language that it “must use local contractors and workers as often as possible,” he said.
When the jail opens in late 2016, the plan is to hire 167 correctional officers, 15 managers, 15 administrative support employees and 41 correctional supervisors, said Howard.
There will be another 20 contract jobs in food services and 35 to 40 in health care services as the jail will offer complete medical services to inmates, he said.
There are currently nine provincial correctional facilities spread across the province and the new jail in Oliver will incarcerate those serving sentences of two years less one day, said Merchant.
There are currently 2,500 inmates in adult custody, with more than 22,000 on probation.
For those who think provincial jails house hardened criminals, that is simply not the case as the average stay for inmates inside a provincial facility is 34 days, said Merchant, who was the warden of a large prison in northern B.C. before accepting his position with the provincial government.
While aboriginals make up only 4.5 per cent of the provincial population, they make up more than 27 per cent of the adult population inside provincial jails and that’s why there are many cultural programs available to them in jail, he said.
More than half of provincial inmates suffer from mental health or drug and alcohol addiction problems and numerous programs are offered at all provincial facilities and will be a big part of rehabilitative services offered at this jail, said Merchant.
The ministry official’s also ensured residents in Oliver and Osoyoos won’t have any concerns about their personal safety once the jail opens.
There have been 13 escapes from all provincial jails in the past five years and 12 of those 13 were from “low risk open custody” work programs where offenders attended personal family crises, said Merchant.
Like all other provincial jails, correctional officers at the South Okanagan jail will be trained and expected to participate in a “direct supervision” model where they work closely with inmates to try and model positive behavior in a non-confrontational fashion, said Coulson.
“We are expecting positive impact on the inmates the officers are working with,” he said.
Anyone applying to become a correctional officer will receive six weeks of paid training provided by the ministry. Those hired will be expected to complete 25 training modules within 18 months of being hired.
The rate of pay on hire is roughly $38,000, but that grows to more than $56,000 after 18 months of training and approaches $70,000 when you factor in benefits, overtime and shift premiums, said Merchant.
The $260-million facility will have 378 cells, including 18 for women, and is expected to create roughly 1,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase.
The vast majority of inmates who are released, head to their hometowns around family and friends and seldom stay near where they are incarcerated, said Coulson.
Merchant said the vast majority of people who are hired in provincial jails love their jobs passionately and make a full career out of them.
“Contrary to what some might think … it’s a great place to work,” he said.
Any suggestion the Osoyoos Indian Band and its members and business owners will be given preferential treatment is simply not true, said Howard.
The deal signed between the OIB, Chief Clarence Louie and the province “is simply a business deal” relating to the lease of land and services like water and sewer, he said.
Members of the OIB and business owners who operate from band land will be more than welcome to apply for jobs just like any other member of the public, he said.
More information is available at www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/correction.