VICTORIA – Vancouver Island’s youth custody facility is under-utilized and will soon be closed, with sentenced young offenders transferred to Burnaby.
Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux announced the decision Monday. She said the Victoria facility currently averages 15 secure custody inmates in a 60-bed facility.
Timing of the closure will be determined in discussions with union for the 54 regular employees and 10 auxiliaries who staff the Victoria centre, Cadieux said.
The three youth custody centres in Prince George, Burnaby and Victoria are “incredibly over-resourced,” Cadieux said, adding that there is ample room at the Burnaby facility to accommodate Vancouver Island youths. Young offenders from beyond southern Vancouver Island may be held in Prince George.
Cadieux said centralizing facilities will save the province money to offset the $4.5 million reduction in federal funding B.C. received because of the lower number of youth inmates.
It also makes it more practical to deliver inmate programs, Cadieux said.
B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union president Darryl Walker said the decision is a surprise and a “shortsighted mistake,” after government assurances that it would remain open as other options are explored.
“Our members were committed to working with the ministry to explore new uses for the centre that would address the government’s concerns around over-capacity,” Walker said in a statement.
Youth facilities serve as remand centres for those awaiting court, as well as those sentenced for repeat or violent offences that rule out serving a sentence in the community.
“This is a decision we’ve struggled with for some time,” Cadieux said. “Our youth custody numbers have been declining and declining over the last decade, and over the last year, our three youth custody centres have been operating at a combined average capacity of 56%.”