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Concerns raised over former inmates not making their transfers after being dropped off at downtown Barrie bus station 0

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

EXAMINER FILES

EXAMINER FILES

Less is more in the downtown core.

One year after the Barrie Downtown Neighbourhood Association (BDNA) got involved in the issue, the number of prisoners released from Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) who had decided to stay in Barrie has dropped significantly.

“We’ve noticed a difference,” said Bryan Rusnell, owner of CameraWorks at the corner of Maple Street.

“We can tell it’s been reduced a great deal. I know the BDNA has been working with the City of Barrie and ministry of corrections to get things cleared up down here, and it seems to be working,” he added.

Rusnell is referring to a meeting held last April with Mayor Jeff Lehman, Ward 2 Coun. Lynn Strachan and Ministry of Community and Correctional Services officials.

What they suspected, that recently released convicts from the Penetanguishene prison were not making their transfers to their hometowns — and were, in fact, selling their bus tickets for cash — was backed up by the numbers they got from a Freedom of Information request.

At that time, they found that there are about 1,200 prisoners released from CNCC each year.

During the period of January 2009 to October 2010, 2,563 bus tickets were allocated at a cost of $114,689, but only 2,450 tickets were claimed.

That left more than 100 people each year not making their connection, and potentially leaning on Barrie’s already over-taxed social services network.

“Two years ago, it was between 90 and 115 who were being released into our population,” said Ben Strudwick of the neighbourhood association. “Now it’s an extremely lower number.”

A little more than a year ago, Barrie MPP Rod Jackson also met with Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community and correctional services, to review the local prison’s procedures and determined they had just recently changed their practices.

It was around roughly the same time the Barrie neighbourhood association had began asking questions.

The new system meant instead of giving bus tickets to freshly released convicts, CNCC would give out separate vouchers the bus driver rips in half, and sends one part back to the correctional facility for their records and tracking capabilities.

With more than 60 drop-offs who didn’t make their connection two years ago, it’s down to four or five a year who don’t get on the bus, the Ward 2 citizens were told.

Now, CNCC has sent detailed voucher records to back up its claim that fewer ex-convicts missed buses is a fact.

Between April and end of June 2012, 370 vouchers were issued and 15 people didn’t make their transfer.

Third-quarter statistics show 358 vouchers issued and only four went unused.

In the last quarter of 2012, all vouchers were used.

“It has a couple of implications,” said Mike Fox of the BDNA. “It reduces the strain on social agencies in the downtown area that provide resources to these individuals. Funding for these programs has not kept up with the growth in Barrie.

“Perhaps the more important point,” he added. “Is that those people who are not staying here are hopefully making it to their planned destination where they do have access to the resources that will help them re-integrate into society.”

cheryl.browne@sunmedia.ca

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