Letter to the Editor – Correctional Facility

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Dear Editor,

I have been reading with interest, the articles and letters about the proposed correctional facility to be built in Kemptville.

I agree that the lack of consultation with the municipality is unfortunate, to say the least, and wonder why the Ontario Government would choose to spring this on the community in an already stressful time. My only conclusion is that it was assumed that people would welcome such an announcement because of the economic benefits the government says will result from such a project. For many this is clearly not the case.

The NIMBY response is common, even for less threatening additions to communities, let alone a correctional facility. Some folks are worried that Kemptville will become known as the “prison town”. Reading through the NG Times about all the activities, businesses, service clubs, churches, schools, sports teams, and, most importantly, the residents, I find it hard to believe that all that could be diluted down to the “prison town”.

When I think of Kingston, for example, my first thoughts are Queens University, RMC, Old Fort Henry, not Collins Bay Penitentiary. The infrastructure and environmental issues invoked in a project like this will be huge. I understand that Mayor Peckford, Council, and others had their first meeting with the Ministry of the Solicitor General last week, to begin the discussion around the many concerns of the municipality.

Many people either don’t know, or have forgotten, that we had a correctional facility in our vicinity for over 50 years. It was the Rideau Correctional and Treatment Centre at Burritts Rapids. In the early years, it was know as The Rideau Industrial Farm, and housed minimum security male inmates; but in the 12 or 15 years before it was closed in 2004, it was upgraded to a medium security institution of 300 male inmates and 200 staff.

I find it curious that one article outlined economic effects of a prison on an American municipality. I wonder why the author didn’t gather information much closer to home, and more pertinent, from the Village of Merrickville-Wolford, or the town of Smiths Falls, where many of the staff resided.

I worked at RCTC for 26 years as a registered nurse. From my long career I can tell you that Ontario Provincial correctional facilities are, for the most part, populated by the marginalized of our society. Most people would be shocked at the numbers of inmates who are functionally illiterate. Many are mentally ill, and many have long standing and complex medical conditions that have never been addressed. There are, of course, the sociopaths too.

Many members of the public consider prisons to be scary and dangerous places for inmates, staff, and the surrounding community, thanks to the portrayals on American TV and in movies. They can also be places of transformation.

Most inmates are not incarcerated for ever. In the provincial system, the maximum sentence is two years less one day, so our hope is that the treatment, programming, and rehabilitation received will have had a positive effect regarding their future productivity in society.

If this proposed facility is, in fact, built, I have no doubt that it will be state-of-the-art as far as security is concerned, and escapes would be very rare and unusual occurrences.
Working in a prison is challenging work, but can be very rewarding too. The staff are well trained in many different professions, and most will be assets to any community in a variety of ways.

I could write so much more, but I will close by daring to suggest that perhaps, just perhaps, this much feared facility might offer some opportunities for the community.

Lois Driscoll,
Merrickville

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