Remand Centre busy

Red Deer City RCMP and the Solicitor General’s office are in some disagreement over whether RCMP prisoners are being increasingly shut out of Red Deer Remand Centre.

Red Deer City RCMP and the Solicitor General’s office are in some disagreement over whether RCMP prisoners are being increasingly shut out of Red Deer Remand Centre.

“Courtesy holds,” or the practice of RCMP officers bringing prisoners — most often public intoxication cases — to the Remand Centre for short-term stays, are being declined more and more, the commanding officer of the Red Deer City RCMP said at budget discussions and again in an interview last week.

As a result of that and several other factors, RCMP guard costs are on the rise, Supt. Brian Simpson said.

“In recent years, we’ve seen less opportunity to move them over there, because they’re full or whatever,” Simpson said.

But the government insists they never “put up the no vacancy sign” over the correctional centres where they accept drunks from the RCMP (it’s also done at Medicine Hat and Lethbridge), as spokeswoman Michelle Davio put it. They will put as many prisoners into their “wet cells,” where there’s washroom facilities and nurse care, as they can, she said.

Christine Nardella, also a Solicitor General and Public Security spokeswoman, said the Remand Centre gets about one transfer a day from the RCMP for public intoxication, that this number has been consistent, and that they’ve had “no difficulty accommodating” requests for courtesy holds.

Simpson asked the city during 2010 operational budget discussions in January for an additional $74,700 to accommodate rising guard and cell costs. The guards work part-time on a call-in basis, although they’re working close to full-time hours, Simpson said.

“We have a holding facility here also, but ideally if we can house them (at the Remand Centre) it just frees up our personnel or time . . . That’s their full-time job, they’re geared for that. We’re a temporary holding facility,” Simpson said, adding he was thankful for the service.

But there’s more than one reason for the rising costs. The number of prisoners the RCMP are handling annually nearly doubled from 2005 to 2008, and total prisoner hours are still on the rise, Simpson said.

He said the Remand Centre change, as he sees it, is “not a big issue” and their prisoner situation isn’t “straightforward.”

Simpson said that the new downtown RCMP station will boast 15 prisoner cells, in contrast to the four they currently have in the downtown location. The 67th Street station has three more.

He expects the detachment to eventually consider hiring the guards on full time if numbers continue to rise.

The Red Deer Remand Centre runs at or near its 146-person capacity every day, Davio said, and most cells are double-bunked.

mgauk@bprda.wpengine.com