The provincial government has announced a $157-million project to build a new prison to replace the existing one in Nanaimo. (NEWS BULLETIN photo)

Province announces $157-million project to replace Nanaimo Correctional Centre

Site clearing to begin this summer adjacent to current prison location

The provincial government has announced a $157-million project to build a new prison to replace the existing one in Nanaimo.

The medium-security Nanaimo Correctional Centre will be replaced, with a new facility to be contructed by 2023 next to the current location at Brannen Lake.

“NCC and the therapeutic community within it have an impressive history of changing lives for the better, and that’s a testament to the hard work of both staff and people in our custody,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, in a press release. “We envision a new centre that will better support staff and enhance NCC’s unique, effective programs.”

The province posted a request for qualifications for proponents to design and build the new facility. Approximately 1,000 construction jobs are expected to be created and site clearing will start this summer.

Michael Houle, chief project officer for the Nanaimo Correctional Centre project, told councillors during a meeting on Monday night that the facility is old and needs replacing.

“It’s simply gotten to the point where it can no longer satisfy the requirements of the program,” he said, adding that the changes will occur within existing zoning.

Originally built in 1953 as a reform school, the facility was never intended to be a correctional centre, said Houle.

The new centre will maintain the 190-room capacity of the current facility, including 60 rooms for secure custody. There will also be a new 12-room unit for short-term custody for women.

“For the first time, women have an opportunity to be housed on the Island, where historically they have been housed in the Alouette Centre for Women,” Houle said.

Houle also said the new centre won’t look like a traditional correctional facility and will be “more reflective” of housing that can be found on the outside.

“This will not be what you would see in the past,” he said. “This will be something relatively new in a campus-like structure.”

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Farnworth, in the press release, pointed to the Nanaimo Correctional Centre’s Guthrie Therapeutic Community and vocational and education partnerships with Vancouver Island University. The new correctional centre will “offer modernized spaces for educational, vocational, certified trades and rehabilitative programming.”

The province promises collaboration with the Snuneymuxw and Snaw-Naw-As First Nations to cupport culturally responsive programming.

Jinny Sims, minister of citizens’ services, said in the release that “replacing NCC will bring major regional economic benefits” and noted that it’s estimated work will provide approximately 650 direct and 275 indirect jobs, plus nearly 100 spinoff jobs associated with spending by those workers.

“Greenlighting NCC’s replacement is great news for construction jobs here in Nanaimo and a compliment to the life-changing programs NCC’s team delivers,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, in the release.

The ministry says it will be “business as usual” at the existing Nanaimo Correctional Centre as far as work routines and daily lives of individuals.

READ ALSO: B.C. solicitor general tours Nanaimo prison



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