Walkerton jail closure will cost taxpayers


By Barb McKay


There will be a major economic impact from the closure of the Walkerton jail, says Brockton’s mayor.


Last week, the province announced it would close jails in Walkerton and Owen Sound because they are no longer considered viable. Following the closures, prisoners will be transported to a super jail in Penetanguishene and one that is slated to be built in Windsor.


“The economic impact is great,” said David Inglis. “We’re going to lose close to 40 full-time provincial jobs, which is the equivalent to an industry in a small community.”


Inglis said it is still unclear what it will cost to transport the prisoners the extra distance to the larger jails. He estimates that it is a four-hour round trip to the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene and a six-hour round trip to Windsor.


Additional transportation costs are certain to impact Kincardine taxpayers, as individuals arrested by South Bruce OPP within the municipality are transported to Walkerton. Kincardine polices services board chair Jacqueline Faubert said the OPP budget is fixed for this year, but there could be additional costs in the future.


“It won’t impact our budget this year,” she said. “But certainly when we come up for renewal, it could.”

Faubert said centralizing services, whether its prisons, schools or hospitals, is rarely beneficial for rural communities.


“In my experience, any kind of centralization of services tends to cost the taxpayers more, and it seems to me that’s what the province is doing,” she said, noting that the province doesn’t seem to be considering the impact on rural communities.


Faubert added the province needs to also consider the loss of jobs from the jail closures.


“It’s ironic, if this goes through and people lose their jobs, the number one factor to crime is unemployment.”


Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell said the cost to maintain the Walkerton jail was a key factor in the decision to close it. The facility holds 34 inmates at a cost of $280 per day. The Penetanguishene jail holds approximately 1,200 prisoners at a cost of $124 per day. As well, Mitchell said, the Walkerton jail, which was built in 1866, requires $800,000 in capital repairs.


“It’s just not meeting the needs anymore,” she said.


Mitchell said the province plans to maintain the full-time jobs. Inglis, however, said that would be a challenge.


“I see that as being very difficult,” he said. “People become established in the community. Spouses would have other jobs. It’s difficult to move two parents with kids to another community.”


Inglis expressed concern that the government does not seem to be considering programs for inmates, which are offered in Walkerton.


“I worry about help to inmates, especially the counselling side,” he said. “I think it would be better to help these folks close to home where they have the support of their families.”


Programs, where inmates remain in jail over weekends and work in the community during the week, could also be impacted, Inglis said.


He is currently looking into the possibility of starting petitions and holding community meetings to garner support to keep the Walkerton jail open.


“We’re going to push as much as we can to stop this,” he said.


Inglis and Owen Sound mayor Deborah Haswell will meet with Mitchell and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Jim Bradley in Toronto this week.