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Williams Lake City Councillor proposes local jail closure to deal with prolific offenders

A Williams Lake City Councillor says he believes Williams Lake should close its jail in order to move prolific offenders to other correctional facilities.

Councillor Scott Nelson made the remarks at Tuesday’s Committee of Whole Council meeting during a delegation by RCMP Inspector Jeff Pelley.

He says Council and the community are extraordinarily frustrated with crown counsel and corrections and have done everything in the context of trying to persuade the use of electronic monitoring.

“The City has the control over the jurisdiction of the staff so we’d have to look at doing something with the staff but these are desperate times,” Nelson told MyCaribooNow.

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“If Crown continues to harm our community by continuously putting serial prolific offenders into our community then we need to take alternative actions. Minister Farnworth has gone missing in action, extraordinarily soft on crime, so we need to protect our community and if that means shutting down our jail and transferring the prolific offenders to a different facility that’s actions we will be taking in 2020.”

MyCaribooNow has reached out to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for comment.

Nelson maintains the idea is doable and is not radical.

“It costs us about $400,000 a year to employ and look after the jails, so what’s the point of having our jails open if the criminals aren’t even there. They come in and get a free meal and a big hug on the way out and then the crown puts them back on the streets,” Nelson says.

“These are serial criminals, they’re prolific offenders. They don’t deserve to be back on the streets without proper guidance and proper bail conditions and a GPS attached to them, so it is the crown’s responsibility to be looking after our communities and they’re failing us dramatically.”

Only a few of Williams Lake’s 14 prolific offenders in custody: RCMP

Williams Lake RCMP Inspector Jeff Pelley had presented Council with a profile of a prolific offender who has had 269 files since 2007 and 143 offences as an adult.

“We have an offender that has 143 offences and 57 are related to breaches and 48 are property-related, so I agree that that offender needs to have more attention,” Pelley said.

“Crown has a success with this offender being detained and no applications in the court but the thing is that there is a part of it where this individual gets released and reoffends.”

Councillor Craig Smith said he believes that a person with that many files is not understanding cause and effect and the consequences.

“I know where this mental health issue comes from but I’m curious as to why it’s not treated as a mental health issue when you have that many offences. He doesn’t understand what he’s doing. I mean yes he knows how to hotwire a car or break into somebody’s house but the mental capacity for regret doesn’t exist and I know the cause, so why isn’t that pursued more?” Smith asked.

“Why are we not dealing with this as a mental health issue instead of an incarceration issue?”

Pelley said that is looked at in some cases, and that they try to get the appropriate agencies to try and engage with the offenders on providing services in regards to addiction, mental health, and homelessness and also see if there is schooling and employment.

“We have seen a couple of successes but I think that it’s not just the police at the table in enforcement,” Pelley said.

“We’re all for meeting with those agencies, meeting with the offender, we do meet with the offender. We voluntarily look at their lifestyle and see if we can get those appropriate agencies and interventions engaged, and sometimes we’re having a bit of success and sometimes we’re not.”

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