Surrey opens largest pretrial centre in B.C

SURREY – Surrey now has B.C.’s biggest provincial prison.

A new wing with 216 cells was officially opened Wednesday at the Surrey PreTrial centre, by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.

The opening, which more than doubles the pretrial’s capacity, completes the $185 million first phase of B.C.’s capital plan to expand its correctional centres. B.C. Corrections will also hire 130 more full-time staff to work at the pretrial centre.

“There are many reasons why bigger is better,” Anton said, at the ribbon cutting ceremony. She said this “unprecedented investment” will help make B.C. safer and separate inmates with known conflicts.

“We have more gang members that have to be kept apart.”

Anton said the government must “ensure capacity and safety grow in tandem with demand.”

Ironically, she also noted that B.C. is enjoying its lowest crime rate in four decades.

The Surrey Pretrial expansion has six living units, each containing 36 cells. The pretrial centre began the new year with roughly 240 inmates, but over the next few months is expected to double that. Before the Surrey expansion, North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam was B.C.’s largest correctional centre.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said the expanded Surrey pretrial represents not just a jail, but an opportunity to change inmates’ lives. Programs there will help get to the root cause of offenders’ criminal behaviour and help them find “a way out,” she said.

“We want to make sure the staff is safe,” she added, and inmates as well.

Surrey Pretrial Warden Gordon Davis called the opening a “historic moment…. This project is moving safety forward and helping our staff to be their best,” he said.