Calgary Young Offender Centre sending inmates to Edmonton amid cutbacks

CALGARY – The Alberta government announced plans to pare down the Calgary Young Offender Centre (CYOC) and close the Calgary Maintenance Enforcement Program (MEP) office on Wednesday.

AUPE vice-president Erez Raz said in a release Wednesday the closures will have a “major impact on individuals and families.”

“These closures are a huge injustice to Albertans,” he said.

Young offenders who would typically be housed at the CYOC will now be incarcerated at the Edmonton Young Offender Centre. Part of the Calgary centre will stay open and continue to be used for “arrest processing and for release and reintegration programs for youth returning to communities in southern Alberta and Calgary,” said Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis in a statement.

“It’s outrageous,” said Raz. “These kids will be separated from their families and support networks. The goal of the youth corrections system is to rehabilitate young offenders so they can become productive members of society as adults. Shipping them more than three hours away will do nothing to achieve that aim. It risks contributing to the creation of more hardened criminals.”

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AUPE said 35 front-line staffing positions will be eliminated, as well as about nine non-union positions. With the closure of the MEP office, five program services and two administrative support positions will also be eliminated, said Raz.

“These cutbacks will do more harm than good,” he said. “Any money saved in the short term will lead to higher costs in the long term.”

Denis said the changes are being made because both offices were “underused or significantly under capacity,” and “every effort will be made to find new positions for affected staff.”

“In Alberta, as across Canada, the number of young offenders has declined over the past several years and it did not make sense to continue to operate two young offender centres that were almost half empty,” said Denis in a statement.

On the closure of the MEP office, Denis said clients in Calgary will be served through the office in Edmonton, which is “primarily” accessed online or by phone already.

Denis’ office said the consolidation of young offender centres would occur over the next few months and that the MEP office would close to clients on April 30. Staff transitions will begin between mid-May and end of July.

With files from Kendra Hamilton

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