Okanagan Correctional Centre looking to fill remaining staff positions

The latest information session will take place in Penticton July 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Penticton Days Inn.

Okanagan Correctional Centre Warden Steve DiCastri.

Okanagan Correctional Centre Warden Steve DiCastri.

Those looking to fill one of the remaining correctional officer roles at the Okanagan Correctional Centre are getting a chance to get prepared at the latest information session in Penticton.

Not all applicants will make the cut though, and according to Warden Steve DiCastri, with 30 years of corrections experience, one or two out of every 10 applicants is a normal average hiring rate for the province.

“There’s a lot involved to be a peace officer. Criminal record checks, the voice stress analyzer, which is a lie detector test, the physical abilities, background checks. That’s just the normal process for law enforcement basically,”  DiCastri said.

The information session will give people a sense of what is involved in the job, what the bar is for physical abilities and the requirements of working for the government.

“We have a lot of people with additional education, but you just need the basics to get in front of us and get interviewed,” DiCastri said. “My second recommendation to people is get physically fit. Your cardio needs to be up because the physical abilities test is not very difficult, but it is challenging.”

The obstacle course taking place in a gymnasium will require candidates to run six flights of stairs, jumping over hurdles, a 50-pound push/pull station mimicking a blocked door and 10 vaults all in just under three minutes. An outline for the Correctional Officer Physical Abilities Tests (COPAT) is available online.

Between 35 and 40 per cent of the staff who will start working at the 378-cell facility just outside of Oliver are experienced corrections officers, the rest will be made up of new hires. Something DiCastri is looking forward to.

“We’re quite excited about that actually because they learn fresh from the start, not knocking anyone who’s in the business already, but our culture will be where I would like it to be and we’ll set off on a good stage, we’re excited about having new people,” DiCastri said.

DiCastri said hiring is in full-swing, a long-term process with background checks and physical fitness tests to analyze, with 70 correctional officers roles that still need to be filled, however, he said he is right where he wanted to be in the hiring process by this time. So far, DiCastri along with three deputy wardens have been hired and are currently on staff. As well, nine assistant deputy wardens and one warden’s assistant are set to start in early fiscal 2016-17. There are 25 correctional supervisors are set to start in late 2016. Administrative assistants and supporting roles have also been hired along with 130 of the 200 correctional officer roles.

Possession of the building gets handed over to the province in October, with training taking place from October through to December with a variety of different staff including correctional officers and management. The inmate population is expected to starting phasing into the facility in January and early February, 2017.

DiCastri has been acclimating well to Oliver since moving to the South Okanagan last year from the Lower Mainland. The question DiCastri is asked most often is what happens to inmates when they get released.

“Are you just going to open up the door and say OK find your own way home? We don’t do that. I’m going to make sure they get driven by us, either back to Penticton to get on a bus, or back to the community where the court is. We don’t just release them into the Okanagan. We send them back to where they’re from,” DiCastri said.

The provincial correctional centre will hold inmates for an average of 60 days, sometimes less if an inmate is awaiting trial.

“So it’s not long-term like a federal sentence. Most of the inmates we are going to be housing in the centre are from the Okanagan corridor anyway.”

DiCastri said the reported 72 inmates per one guard number won’t be the case in the facility.

“We don’t anticipate that. Our count doesn’t dictate that high of a number. We will take inmates from the Okanagan corridor, and there are bed-load issues that we have, but the Okanagan opening is going to minimize some of that pressure elsewhere,” DiCastri said.

First Nations programs, like every correctional centre in the province, will be featured at the facility — which was made possible in partnership with the Osoyoos Indian Band and built on band land — and the possibility of one-of-a-kind horse therapy is still in the works.

“We are looking a therapeutic piece to the horse program and we also have a big greenhouse there. We have a metal shop, wood shop and a multi-purpose shop. We get them working, teach them some basic safety and tools, forklift operation. What we try to do with these programs is to get them prepared to get hired when they get out,” DiCastri said.

An information session for those interested in correctional officer positions takes place in Penticton July 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Penticton Days Inn.