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'They completely blindsided us': Dauphin corrections workers fear for future without jail
DAUPHIN -- The impending closure of the Dauphin Correctional Centre is sending a ripple effect through the community, prompting hundreds of residents to rally together in hopes of reversing the decision Dauphin’s mayor says will “devastate” the area.
As residents who packed a town hall meeting Monday learned, the closure’s effects will be far reaching in the community, potentially costing millions to the economy and forcing up to 80 families to relocate.
Few know more about impact of the closure than the families at ground zero -- the ones who work at the Dauphin Correctional Centre. For many among them, the past week has been a whirlwind of shock, fear and frustration over what they say is a lack of information.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
“We have two small kids, so my concern is -- how are we going to continue to support them,” one spouse of a Dauphin correctional worker told CTV News.
They asked not to be named for fear there may be repercussions from the province that could affect their jobs.
They said their family’s whole life is in Dauphin. Their kids’ friends, family, and school are all in Dauphin, and they had just put a down payment on their “dream home” in the area.
They said since the sudden announcement their husband has lost weight and is worried about the future of his career and his family.
“My husband feels like he's let our family down. So I've had to reassure him regularly that that's not the case. This isn't his fault. It was out of his control,” they said, breaking down into tears.
Chris Geisel, president of the Manitoba General and Government Employees’ Union for the Dauphin Jail Local, told CTV News there are many families experiencing similar feelings.
Chris Geisel (Danton Unger/CTV News.)
“I literally saw jaws drop when they announced to the staff in the (Dauphin jail) and outside the building -- they completely blindsided us,” he said.
“You’re trying to have discussions with your loved ones on what does the future look like, and we don’t know.”
Deputy Justice Minister Dave Wright, who was in the community for the meeting Monday night, told CTV News the province has made the decision to close the jail and is moving forward with it.
Deputy Justice Minister Dave Wright. (Danton Unger/CTV News).
The province previously said the jail, which was built in 1917 and is the oldest jail in the province, no longer meets modern needs.
Wright said the province will have jobs in the corrections industry for the employees of the Dauphin jail and added their goal is to work with the union to offer assistance to those who are relocating.
But this assurance from the province was little consolation to the families, who told CTV News they have still received little information, other than what’s been reported by the press.
TURNING TO EACH OTHER FOR SUPPORT
In the aftermath of the announcement, spouses of correctional workers in Dauphin created a support group to share tips on how to deal with stress and have a community to talk too.
“We legitimately have zero information. We’ve been pushing for it and hoping for it, but they haven’t given us anything,” the spouse CTV News spoke with said.
“I mean to announce this as suddenly as they did, and then not having any of those answers to those questions that you know are going to be asked -- it’s a slap in the face.”
(Danton Unger/CTV News)
The feeling of unanswered questions is echoed by many in the community -- including Dauphin Mayor Allen Dowhan, who said he attended the town hall meeting Monday to get some answers, but walked away “inflamed.”
“It’s really, really sad that this government has no compassion for its people,” he said. “This is my region. I grew up here, and it's going to devastate us.”
The community has called for the province to reverse its decision to close the jail, or build a rehabilitation centre in its place. On Tuesday evening, hundreds are expected to take part in a march to the jail and a rally calling for action from the government.