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Youth custody centre should keep its youth focus, Prince George mayor says

The Prince George Youth Custody Centre is closing permanently in March and it’s up to the province’s Ministry of Citizen’s Services  to decide what to do with that facility.
This is the outdoor exercise field at the Prince George Youth Custody Centre on Gunn Road.

Prince George Mayor Simon Yu said Friday that he’d like to see the Prince George Youth Custody Centre retain its focus to help youth in some way once the jail for young offenders closes in the spring.

In the wake of Thursday’s announcement that the Prince George Youth Custody Centre (PGYCC) will be closing permanently in March, it’s up to the province’s Ministry of Citizen’s Services  to decide what to do with that facility.

Over the next few months, the ministry will be surveying the city, social agencies, and Indigenous groups to figure out a way to repurpose the 60-bed youth jail to best meet the needs of the community.

Yu said the closure of the jail was inevitable, with changes to the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act four years ago resulting in fewer jail sentences for young offenders.

“Any public facility to be underutilized to that extent – it required a different program,” said Yu. “This facility can be easily converted to address mental health or drug addiction. 

“On that note, I am proud of the premier and I thank him for the decision. Burnaby Youth Custody Services Centre is adequate perhaps for the province as a whole under the current legal system. To better utilize public money is a good thing.”

Yu is familiar with the facility, having worked as a structural engineer on that project when it was built in 1989. He said the city will be involved in any possible future zoning changes or permit requirements depending on the needs of the new operator. 

“Because it has an availability of a number of beds already we should find a way to staff the place,” he said. “I would like to see it as something for helping the youth. If we can catch youth when they want to get off drugs for example, when they have some issues, this might be an excellent place. 

“Who might be the best organization operating it that might be the question. I will say Lheidli T’enneh perhaps they might have some ideas, so we need to listen to the Lheidli T’enneh council.”

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