The Parkland Region is reeling from the devastating announcement by Minister Cullen that the Dauphin Correction Centre (DDC) will be unilaterally closed effective May 29, 2020. The shock and dismay has touched us all in many of ways.
The community and region has rallied and shown resolve to convince the Minister, the Premier and his members that for the reasons below it is unnecessary and indeed folly to close the Centre.
We believe there is a better way.
A public meeting held shortly after the announcement drew a large, angry crowd comprised of a cross section of this vibrant region. A subsequent march and demonstration took place. More are planned. The effects of the closure were well articulated and can be summarized as devastating in many ways.
Economically: It is estimated that the direct closure would see the region lose 80 stable middle income jobs and see an exodus of hundreds of young people. These folks will move to seek employment, support their families or relocate their business as a result of economic downturn. To bring this home to Manitobans, an equivalent hit would be approximately 450 middle income, stable, positions cut from Brandon and an exodus of about a thousand people or roughly 8,000 jobs cut and an exodus of 25,000 people from Winnipeg.
A reasonable estimate of the annual direct loss of revenue to our region is between $6 – $8 million annually. We stress that this is only the direct cost. Indirect costs include loss to businesses, loss of partner’s employment, inventible closures, loss of sales, reduced real estate and business equity, etc. which would be much more. This seems a horrible price to pay when there is no great saving to the government financially.
They apparently want to transfer salaries and positions to other overcrowded facilities in the province. In fact, the economic loss in our region would negatively effect future government revenue collected through lost taxes, loss of economic activity and the myriad of anticipated extra social costs (Policing, Health, Education, crime, etc.) that will result.
It seems evident that such an impact will lessen any potential investment or economic activity by what this government promotes as private economic development.
Any astute business knows that stable jobs, solid social services and economic optimism will result in a reliable customer base. That requires a positive economic stimulus from both government and private enterprise. Sadly, that is not the message given by our elected representatives by drawing the shutters needlessly. We wonder what region might be next.
Judicially: Clearly the Minister has misread the capacity of the existing correctional facilities to house Dauphin’s inmate population who would need to be transferred.
All the existing facilities, save one, report they are currently over capacity.
Further… transferring the inmates to distant, overcrowded facilities, negative influences of gangs and violence and distant from positive family supports can only drive up recidivism and increase future crime.
The DCC, because of its smaller nature, is able to provide personal and positive influence that again qualitatively and quantitatively show better outcomes for inmates in reduced recidivism, restorative approaches and effective interventions.
Socially: The stress and uncertainty of the future for the families affected is enormous. Already, health concerns have surfaced. Ruthlessly uprooting families affects the entire community. This is especially hard on the children. Families, Day Cares, Health Services and Schools are all reporting increased anxiety, worry, and acting out because of the uncertainty.
We cannot imagine why the Minister insists on such a quick closure given that there seems to be no specific plan in place for affected employees. We wonder how MLAs and their families would react if they were told they had to reduce 15 politicians by May 29th.
As our elected representatives MLAs have a responsibility to listen to and act on the advice of citizens. It is overwhelming advice from our region that you have received and will continue to receive. You gain credibility and respect when you rethink poor decisions and find better ways. You lose credibility if you stonewall behind paternalistic views of “We know better”.
We propose that the decision to close DCC be put on the shelf.
The building is old, but still serviceable. We urge our politicians to have the wisdom to see an opportunity to avoid treating our region as a wasteland unworthy of support, but rather a region that can grow and prosper with some leadership, collaboration, thoughtfulness and investment.
It is well known that our indigenous partners are very willing to look at a Wellness / Containment facility. Such a facility was deemed necessary and was in previous plans.
We are certain that the City of Dauphin and the RM, along with federal and indigenous organizations, welcome calling a stop to the needless closure until a coordinated campaign and plan can be developed to build such a facility here in Dauphin.
We need you, our elected representatives, to step up to bat, think forward, and roll up your sleeves to build something of which we can all be proud. That is a better way.
We look forward to meeting, supporting, advocating and educating as needed. We will also heed the words of Dylan Thomas so many years ago… “do not go gently into that good night.”
Be wise and lead.
Larry Budzinski, Dauphin, Man
For the DDC Campaign.