Petition campaign goes online to voice opposition to prison

A group of concerned citizens have launched an online petition to allow Penticton and regional district residents to voice their opposition of having a jail in the area.

“Despite distinct and substantial public opposition to the project, Penticton city council, with the support of the RDOS directors, has charged ahead and submitted two sites to the province,” said Tom Bijvoet, one of the organizers of the petition. “Mayor (Dan) Ashton has stated that there will be no referendum on this issue. It is alarming that our community and our region could be pushed into a 360-cell, 720-inmate prison project by elected officials who assume vast community support and who have staged minimal public consultation.”

The online petition at had 608 signatures as of Tuesday morning. Paper copies of the same petition also are available for signing at the Book Store, Bellevue Cafe and Dragon’s Den in Penticton. The group plans on submitting the petition to the B.C. Solicitor General, Penticton mayor and council and all Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen directors.

Organizers of the petition feel it is inappropriate for elected officials to compare Penticton or other small RDOS communities to much larger centers with prisons such as Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, when claiming that there would be no negative impacts resulting from locating such a facility in Penticton or the regional district.

“Only the apparent positives of the project have been put forward by the City of Penticton and Corrections B.C. and there has been a refusal by elected officials to acknowledge any potential economic and social risks or downside impacts of locating such a facility in Penticton or other communities in this region,” said Bijvoet.

The group has also taken offence to assumptions that there would be an abundance of jobs for locals. In a press release the anti-jail group said ex-convicts are given a bus pass to their home community, though they are not required to use it. They also note that remand prisoners would be in the facility and these people can be accused of serious crimes.

“The prison project should not be undertaken for the sake of short-term construction jobs when the long-term risks to the community have not been adequately addressed,” said Bijvoet.

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