Woodstock officials believe the town is ideally located for the new provincial jail and a new correctional facility could secure the long-term future of the Woodstock provincial court and the Woodstock Police Force. Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Would Woodstock be the right location for New Brunswick’s new provincial jail?

Woodstock town officials believe it is, and they’ve already pointed that out in emails and a letter to Justice and Public Safety Minister Kris Austin. 

Mayor Trina Jones confirmed she and council members are actively pushing Woodstock as the ideal location. 

She said council members held a lot of discussions about the jail issue in December and January. 

The province’s announcement of the cancellation of its plans to build the correctional facility in Fredericton rekindled Woodstock’s interest, said Jones. 

She said some council members suggested it was time to send the letter, and she agreed. 

Jones said the town sent emails proposing the idea earlier last week and followed it with a formal letter on Friday, June 2. 

The provincial government announced its plans not to build in Fredericton with a short press release on May 29. 

“The provincial government has decided not to build a correctional facility within the City of Fredericton,” the release stated. “The change follows concerns raised by the public who live close to the proposed location in the Vanier Industrial Park on Fredericton’s south side.

“The government is now looking at a location outside the city to minimize any perceived impact upon residents.” 

Jones said Woodstock checks most boxes needed to house the correction facility. 

She expressed confidence the town could locate the 25 acres of land with easy access to the Trans Canada Highway needed to house the jail. 

The nearby Upper River Valley Hospital can provide needed health services, she said, adding Woodstock is also home to the Woodstock Police Force and an RCMP detachment. 

She added the town’s ultra-busy provincial courthouse continually requires defendants held in custody to be transferred hundreds of kilometres from jail to court and back. 

“We’re already playing a role throughout the province with the prison system, anyway, because we are in between the Madawaska Correctional Centre and the Saint John Correctional Centre,” Jones explained. “We’re the halfway point, so there’s a lot of transfers that happen here already, and a lot of court cases come to here.”

In reality, Jones added, Woodstock’s location could offer cost savings for the department. 

While not mentioning Woodstock specifically, Judy Désalliers, a communication officer for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said Minister Austin received correspondence from local governments interested in building the new jail in their communities. 

She said the minister wants a decision made as soon as possible. 

“A new jail is needed, and the department needs to advance, as quickly as is possible, to site selection and then construction,” Désalliers said in her response to the River Valley Sun on behalf of Minister Austin. “This is a priority.”

She said the department is revisiting the criteria before selecting a new jail site and will have more to say soon.

Désalliers said sites for correctional centres go through a detailed selection process and are evaluated on various criteria based on the department’s experience with other facilities and best practices. 

“This includes such things as property size, location, access, zoning, services, and cost,” she said.   

Jones believes Woodstock tops the list regarding criteria. 

She adds building a provincial jail in Woodstock could put to rest the long-simmering concern surrounding the future of Woodstock’s courthouse after the province cancelled needed renovations.  

“This would secure our courthouse,” Jones said. “And that’s important for us.” 

She added the courthouse also weighs heavily on the future of the municipal police force. 

“It’s important the courthouse remains because if it should shift or close or something, that would really hamper and increase the cost for our town police.”

By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 05, 2023 at 17:25

This item reprinted with permission from   River Valley Sun   Woodstock, New Brunswick
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