The former site of the Kemptville Agricultural School is now slated to be the province’s new 235-bed Eastern Ontario correctional complex.
“This is a project that has lots of consultation happening with it,” says MPP Steve Clark. “Yes, there was a site selection process by SOLGEN (the Solicitor General’s office) and they ultimately chose a provincially owned site in north Grenville.”
That is a big part of the problem for Colleen Lynas, a member of the Coalition Against the Proposed Prison (CAPP).
She says there was no public consultation in the site selection and that residents had to gather information through a freedom of information request.
“Out of a potential 145 relevant pages, only 10 were provided,” says Lynas.
But she says those pages were still enough to raise concerns about the prison for CAPP, and Kirk Albert, a member of another group called the Jail Opposition Group, agrees.
He says the community of four to five thousand residents doesn’t have the services to support the prison.
“We’re not an urban area,” says Albert. “We have a small local hospital, we don’t have Elizabeth Fry, we don’t have the John Howard Society, we don’t have public transit.”
All of which provides problems for families visiting individuals incarcerated at the potential prison.
The groups say they have also been met with resistance from their own MPP, who filed a complaint with Elections Ontario that their signs and mailouts were unregistered third party political advertising.
“The matters were referred to Elections Ontario,” says MPP Clark. “They’ve provided, reached out to all the groups, helped them with compliance and we haven’t received any further direction from Elections Ontario.”
“Elections Ontario sided against him in that regard and deemed that our activities was not third party political advertising,” says Lynas.
Albert says they’ve come up with a list of four demands or requests for the provincial government that he says will help address residents’ concerns.
They include a moratorium on any prison construction in Kemptville, consultation about the best use of the property and a release of the site selection documents withheld by the Ministry of the Solicitor General.
“We would be interested in them starting the selection process over because of the flaws we’ve identified to date,” Albert adds.
Another round of public consultations on design and functionality is slated to take place in November.