The week ending Aug. 31 marks the final week of operations for the Battlefords Community Corrections Centre and the North Battleford Youth Centre.
Both are slated to close Aug. 31. The closures are in advance of the move into the new Saskatchewan Hospital/integrated correctional facility, designed to accommodate 284 individuals.
The correctional facility portion will consist of 96 rooms for male and female offenders. Of those, 64 will be for men, 16 for women, and there are eight medical cells and eight special purpose (segregation) cells.
The Saskatchewan Government Employees Union has confirmed that both the BCC as well as closed custody at North Battleford Youth Centre would close Friday, and that jobs involving their union would be impacted.
According to Lori Bossaer, with SGEU on their PS/GE committee and chair of the human services component of PS/GE, the majority of existing staff are being transferred to the new facility. As well, more full-time positions will also need to be filled.
There are a small number of positions that will not exist at the new facility, and are being abolished. Those affected are now eligible under the collective agreement to go through the bumping process (using their seniority to bump into a similar position elsewhere), take severance or explore other options.
It was Bossaer’s understanding that all the prisoners would be transferred out by the closing date on Friday.
Beyond that, Bossaer confirmed it was still not known when the employees would start at the new Saskatchewan Hospital/integrated correctional facility, where construction is not yet complete.
The main concern from SGEU’s standpoint, said Bossaer, is jobs.
“We want our members to be able to have jobs to go to,” said Bossaer.”
The other concern from the union was about the overcrowding situation at Saskatchewan’s jails, and the impact on prisoners in the Battlefords of transferring to another facility.
“Corrections has been overcrowded for a long time,” Bossaer said.
A big concern is the loss of a local facility for local prisoners. BCC had taken on shorter-term prisoners, and the youth centre allowed youth to be closer to their families in the vicinity.
“It’s unfortunate that don’t have an area close to the catchment area to be housed now,” said Bossaer.
Officials from cabinet were unavailable to comment on the closures due to rules prohibiting officials from commenting while a by-election is underway in Regina. However, a statement was released this week as follows:
“The Ministry of Corrections and Policing is very happy to be part of the new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford project.
“The addition of mental health correctional beds as part of the hospital will help ensure clients living with mental health issues receive the care and treatment they require.
“As part of the move to the new facility, both the Battlefords Community Correctional Centre and the North Battleford Youth Centre will close as of August 31st.
“Those that were at these facilities will be absorbed into the province’s other existing correctional and young offender facilities.
“All staff were afforded a position within the new Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford. Some chose to exercise their rights as per the collective bargaining agreement and take bumping opportunities or a severance.
“Operational dollars from these two facilities will be transferred to the new facility.”