Bowden beefed up

A $25-million expansion of Bowden Institution will add 146 beds to the federal prison over the next two to three years.

A $25-million expansion of Bowden Institution will add 146 beds to the federal prison over the next two to three years.

Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson announced Tuesday that Bowden Institution and Drumheller Institution will each receive $25 million to expand.

Bowden Institution is expanding its prisoner capacity to meet the expected federal government predictions that inmates will serve longer sentences.

Expansion will involve both the medium and minimum security portions of the federal jails, Cathy Stocki, regional communication manager for the Correctional Service of Canada said.

“Basically what’s happening for the minimum part of the institution is the expansion of the annex by 50 beds.”

About 50 new beds are expected to be built in each new medium security annex.

The minimum security portion houses inmates who are serving sentences which are nearing completion.

The farming operation in Bowden’s minimum security section is due to be phased out shortly.

Bowden was built to house 455 inmates but it held almost 200 more than that earlier this summer including about 560 in medium security and 80 in minimum security.

Stocki said tenders on the minimum security annex will be let soon with work to be completed late next year.

She said each medium security unit at the respective prisons will receive $15 million for expansion while $10-million will be spent on each minimum security annex.

Work on the medium security portion is expected to be finished in 2012 or 2013.

Stocki said planning will include discussion about increasing staffing, including both corrections officers and support staff. There are about 450 employees at Bowden including about 200 corrections officers.

“Our government is committed to ensuring a fair and effective corrections system with a priority to protect Canadians,” Sorenson said.

“We need to ensure our prisons are safe to work in, are free of illicit drugs and are rehabilitating offenders effectively so that both our corrections staff and our communities are protected,” Sorenson added.

He also said in the past a violent criminal sentenced to nine years in jail for example could potentially be out on the street in as little as three years if he or she spent two years awaiting trial.

He said that isn’t acceptable to Canadians.

This spring the government abolished the generally accepted court principle of giving people awaiting trial a credit of two-for-one for each day spent in remand. Now they only receive a one-for-one credit in the vast majority of instances.

It’s anticipated that during the next few years Corrections Canada will add more than 2,700 beds to men’s and women’s jails across Canada.