By Ryan Flanagan
Kitchener Post staff
Difficulty finding a suitable site means a parole office won’t be coming to Kitchener until at least 2015.
Correctional Services Canada (CSC) had planned to move their Guelph parole office to Kitchener when their lease in Guelph expired in February 2013.
Instead, after an unsuccessful search, they’ve decided to stay put.
“We have not found a suitable site as of yet in Kitchener. Consequently, the lease in Guelph has been extended for another two years,” said CSC Western Ontario area director Braden Whilsmith in an e-mail to the Kitchener Post.
“We will continue to work . . . to find a site in the KW area, and of course will also continue our public consultation efforts.”
Public consultation has thus far been limited to one meeting, held last year at the Country Hills library.
At that meeting, residents were told the office would move to Kitchener because the majority of its caseload is from either Kitchener or Waterloo, compared to only 15 per cent from Guelph — though it does handle an area stretching as far as Owen Sound and Tobermory.
City of Kitchener officials had been working with CSC to find a suitable site, but there hasn’t been any contact between the two groups since August, when CSC decided to extend their lease in Guelph after each organization’s requirements resulted in a lack of suitable properties.
The primary conditions CSC had were a site with enough office space and bus access. The current Guelph office is in a strip mall, next to a McDonald’s.
The city had its own criteria — not too close to an elementary school, daycare or other location geared toward children — and the end result was a fruitless search.
“We worked with them to try and find an appropriate location and were of agreement that the properties they were looking at were not appropriate for one reason or another,” said city CAO Jeff Wilmer.
Early in the process, the city asked CSC to avoid the downtown core — a rule CSC was happy to abide by.
“They didn’t want to have an unintended negative impact on the downtown community. They were looking for a site that would have more of a neutral impact,” said Wilmer.
From the city’s point of view, Wilmer said the tiptoeing around potential parole office locations is for two reasons — not wanting to oversaturate any particular neighbourhood with social services, and the inherent risk in dealing with convicted criminals who have served all or part of a sentence.
“It’s a matter of finding the right location, not saying we don’t want to have it at all. It serves a valuable function and it needs to be in the community,” he said.
The local parole office generally manages around 100 cases at a time.
Although some visits do take place in the office, parole officers are evaluated based on minimizing the number of in-office visits.