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Chagnon’s answer to Club Fed…

Public-private jail proposal sets off alarms

Quebec looking at South Shore site. Prisoner rehabilitation groups concerned programs might be outsourced, too

DEBBIE PARKES

The Gazette

November 9, 2004



Plans by the province to build a jail on the South Shore under a public-private partnership formula – and possibly have it operated by the private sector as well – have upset organizations working to rehabilitate offenders.

“We’re urging the government to exercise great caution,” said Johanne Vallee, executive director of the Association des services de rehabilitation sociale du Quebec, of the jail expected to go up in the Longueuil area.

“We mustn’t fall into the logic of the private sector,” where the main aim is to make profits, she said, giving the example of privately run jails and prisons in the U.S., France and Britain. Private operators consistently use a lower ratio of correctional officers to prisoners than the public sector does, Vallee said, but more surveillance cameras.

Vallee said that trend is troubling because the majority of provincial inmates are struggling with addiction and mental-health problems. They need more personal contact with jail staff – not less, Vallee said.

In September, Vallee’s association, which represents 50 organizations, put together a committee of experts to examine the issues surrounding privately operated jails. The one on the South Shore would be a first for Quebec and among only a few in the country.

The rehabilitation association’s committee, whose members include criminologists and former Corrections Canada administrators, is to table its report to the association’s board of directors next week, Vallee said.

The jail, to house up to 500 inmates, would probably be built near Highway 30, somewhere between Ste. Julie and Brossard, Daniel Thibault, press aide to Public Security Minister Jacques Chagnon, said in an interview yesterday. It would serve the Longueuil judicial district, which has no provincial jail despite being the third-largest jurisdiction in Quebec, he said.

Whether correctional officers and programs for inmates would also be managed by the private sector remains to be determined, Thibault said. “For now, nothing is being excluded.”

He said the minister is looking to submit the project after Christmas. Vallee said two civil servants working on the project told the experts’ committee the new jail would probably also replace the two small jails in Sorel and Valleyfield.

Also yesterday, Longueuil Mayor Jacques Olivier issued a statement expressing frustration that the city hasn’t been consulted. Later in the day, the mayor and Chagnon spoke by phone, agreeing to meet soon to discuss the project, said Olivier’s press aide, Maxime Chagnon.

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