B.C. Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth (centre) gets a tour of the lobby of Okanagan Correctional Centre Friday afternoon. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

B.C. solicitor general pays Okanagan jail a visit

Mike Farnworth said bolstering staffing at the jail, and other jails, is one of his priorities

B.C.’s public safety minister and solicitor general says the government is looking to bolster its staffing at Okanagan’s jail, acknowledging there have been issues with ratios of inmates to jail guards.

Mike Farnworth made his first appearance at the Okanagan Correctional Centre, the province’s newest jail, on Friday before speaking to media in the lobby of the building.

“It’s something that is a priority for me as solicitor general, and it is something that we’re working on,” Farnworth said of employment and retention at OCC.

“If you go around here, you’ll see banners saying ‘We are hiring,’ and these are good jobs here in the Okanagan, but in other parts of the province, so if people are looking for an opportunity for a good-paying, steady job, this is certainly one.”

In terms of retention, Farnworth acknowledged wage disparities with other law enforcement agencies, such as police and federal prison guards, were part of the issue.

“Contract bargaining will be taking place,” he said, adding the current union contract runs through to 2019, laying the blame for lower wages on previous governments. “There is a discrepancy (with other agencies) and contracts have been negotiated by previous governments, both at the provincial level and the federal level.”

Farnworth also spoke to recent measures to combat illicit drugs in the jail, saying though the addition of full body scanners to the jail had not fully plugged the flow of drugs into the site, he believed it helped.

“People are always creative, but from what I’ve heard, what I know and what I’ve read about body scanning at the same place that it has dropped it significantly,” he said. “It’s very impressive system that is here, but people will always try and find their way around (it).”


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