Dauphin residents look for options to fill void left by shuttered jail
DAUPHIN -- The province has said the decision to close the Dauphin Correctional Centre will be moving forward, but the community is looking for alternate options such as a rehabilitation centre or a healing lodge that could fill the void left by the shuttered jail.
Over 400 residents signed a petition on Monday night calling for the province to reverse its decision to close the jail or build a rehabilitation centre in its place that could provide jobs for the community.
“There’s a need for a better facility, and a need for corrections across the province,” said Chris Geisel, president of the Manitoba General and Government Employees’ Union for the Dauphin Jail Local.
“They committed to build one here before, so the need hasn’t gone away.”
In 2013, the NDP provincial government promised to rebuild the correctional centre in Dauphin, with a higher rated capacity.
On Monday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew renewed his party’s commitment to build a new centre in the area.
“Rather than closing the jail, putting all these people out of work and making the community less safe, what we’re proposing is to build a new healing lodge,” Kinew said.
Kinew said this lodge would focus on restorative justice and would service Dauphin, Thompson and northern communities. The NDP said this centre would use cognitive behavioural therapy and addictions treatment.
“This is a correctional facility focused on rehabilitation that will keep all the people in the region working,” Kinew said.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont also condemned the government’s decision to close the jail.
The province previously announced it would be spending $11 million to renovate and upgrade the attached courthouse, improve security and accessibility, and add more holding cells and meeting spaces for clients and lawyers.
The province also said it would improve video-conferencing and add new office spaces for court staff, sheriffs and judges.
Dauphin Mayor Allen Dowhan is calling on the province to invest in the original jail, rather than spend millions on the courthouse.
“You don’t restore a justice system that’s broken with brick and mortar. You got to work with people,” Dowhan said.
“This decision is totally uncalled for. It’s a great building - it doesn’t need more remodeling.”
Dowhan said if the province is spending money on the courthouse, it should improve the jail as well.
“To restore a courthouse in a failed justice system and there’s no room for restorative justice? We couldn’t do that.”
On Monday, Deputy Justice Minister Dave Wright said there is no timeline or completion date for the renovation to the courthouse.
In a written statement to CTV News, a spokesperson from Manitoba Justice said its focus is working with the staff and families affected by the closure.
"We are also committed to work with local municipal leaders to address their concerns and we will be further engaging with the community on the final design of the renovations for the courthouse, and future government investments in the Parkland region," the statement reads.
The province did not address the calls for a rehabilitation centre or healing lodge.