Ottawa’s decision to house nearly 146 more prisoners at Bowden Institution through a new $25-million expansion will result in huge economic spinoffs across Central Alberta, says the president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.
The federal government will expand both the medium and minimum security areas of the federal prison over the next two to three years because longer sentences are expected under new Ottawa rules.
Dom Mancuso described the prison as impressive already with its abundance of land along Hwy 2 between Innisfail and Bowden. If there’s a need to house a greater inmate population, this jail has the land, he added.
“It would be nice to see them double the size of the facility because think about the economic impact to Central Alberta,” said Mancuso, adding a lot more staff would then be needed. “The negative side of that is that they’re putting more people in prisons.”
Bowden Institution is already ranked as having Canada’s largest federal prison population, which numbers 645 male offenders. It’s staffed by 450, including about 200 corrections officers.
Ottawa earlier announced that the minimum-security annex, built in 1989, would be expanded to add 50 more inmates to the present 80. Work is expected to be finished late 2011.
About 50 additional beds will be added in the medium-security area, with completion slated in 2012 or 2013. This portion will cost $15 million, while the remaining money will go to the minimum-security portion.
Planning the additions will include discussion about how much staff to increase.
Mancuso said the benefits aren’t so much from the construction project itself, but from the additional staffing that will be hired. “It’s about where they will be spending their money,” he said.
The new hirees may settle down in Red Deer, Innisfail, Bowden or other communities, but they will be shopping “everywhere” according to Mancuso.
“They will be buying vehicles someplace, they will be buying fuel,” he said. “It’s that kind of economic impact that all adds up.”
Bowden Mayor Cody Berggren said he expects spinoffs from the construction and from the staff who will be hired. “The addition of that more inmates and that more jobs will definitely have some positive effect on the community,” he said.
Bowden is currently home to about 1,300 residents, some of whom work at the prison.
“It’s great for families,” Berggren said. “We definitely hope to attract some of the (new employees).”
Drumheller Institution will also receive $25 million for expansion.
This spring the Harper government abolished the generally accepted court principle of giving people awaiting trail two-for-one credit for each day spent in remand. Now they only receive one-for-one credit in the vast majority of instances.
In the next few years, it’s anticipated Corrections Canada will add more than 2,700 beds to men’s and women’s jails.