Jail jobs attract dozens to Kelowna physical exam

Competition for a job at what will be the Okanagan’s first prison is starting to heat up.

Competition for a job at what will be the Okanagan’s first prison is starting to heat up.

Around 20 participants showed up at the Capital News Centre on Saturday for the physical examination that precedes the actual application process to work at the Okanagan Correctional Centre.

Applicants were from various walks of life, with different educational backgrounds and from different cities. All wanted a shot at being a prison guard.

Among their ranks was Gary Gill. He’s in his second year of a bachelor of arts at the University of Lethbridge, and criminology is his focus.

“I drove (Friday) to my parents’ house in Abbotsford so I could get a note from my family doctor, saying I was physically fit for the exam,” he said.

“Then, today, I made it here to Kelowna and we’re driving back to school later.”

The whirlwind tour won’t be for naught, he hopes.

He feels he’s physically fit enough and in the right line of study for the job, but knows the competition is intense.

“It’s not easy getting these jobs, so it’s a great opportunity that these positions are opening up,” he said.

“I think this would be a good place to work…If I like it, I could stick to it, but it’s good experience if you want to go into policing down the road.”

The Okanagan Correctional Centre has 300 new positions to fill, 200 of which will be for corrections officers, which is why the Corrections Officers’ Physical Abilities Test (COPAT) is so important.

COPAT involves climbing stairs, negotiating obstacles at speed, pushing and pulling heavy objects out of the way, gaining control over a resisting subject, and moving an approximately 31.75-kg (70-lb.) object a certain distance—all within a two minute and 50 second time limit.

Steve DiCastri, warden of Okanagan Correctional Centre, explained each of the physical exam stations represent something prison guards will see while working in the prison, which will be built north of Oliver.

“With cuffing techniques, you may have to get down on the ground and cuff somebody, then get up and go over a fallen table,” said DiCastri.

The various tests looked deceptively simple, but DiCastri pointed out that 10 per cent of the people who take it fail.

“Cardio is the main reason they fail,” he said. “By the time they go to the push pull station, their mind gets going and they’re huffing and puffing—that’s the hard part.”

What won’t be hard, however, is filling the positions that are open.

The Kelowna exam is one of many that will be held in the valley.

Once that’s cleared, the application process will open up and it’s expected to be busy.

“We have done information sessions from Kelowna to Oliver and we’ve seen 1,200 people so far,” he said.

It’s difficult, but rewarding work DiCastri said, pointing out that he’s been working in B.C. prison’s since 1985.

The prison was once destined for Kelowna, but it went to the area north of Oliver instead.