A surprise change in its relationship with the local jail has left Lethbridge’s police service scrambling to staff holding cells at police headquarters.
The Lethbridge Correctional Centre was one of the last jails in Alberta still taking in arrested drunk people and keeping them overnight even if they faced no criminal charges. As of Sept. 1, though, the jail only accepts prisoners who have been ordered into custody by a judge or justice of the peace, leaving the majority of intoxicated prisoners in police hands.
“The correctional centre has, as a courtesy to us, held our intoxicated prisoners and earlier this fall they curtailed or restricted what they would take and what they wouldn’t take, and as a result we have to manage our own prisoners in our cell block in the police station. We weren’t really set up to do that,” said Lethbridge Regional Police Service Insp. Tom Ascroft, of the administrative services division.
For the past two months, the police service has temporarily brought in the Commissionaires to monitor two drunk tanks and 10 holding cells in the police station 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But that extra expense is the main reason for a $15,147 deficit in LRPS’ security services budget last quarter, Police Chief Tom McKenzie told police commission at its most recent meeting.
U of L funding restored
The University of Lethbridge got a little financial relief with the announcement by the Alberta government that $50 million is being put back into the post-secondary education system.
The U of L will receive $2.4 million as its share and Lethbridge College will get about $1 million. The funding is being doled out immediately to help with this year’s operations and is earmarked for enrolment, to either open up new spots for students or to help pay for spots that have already been promised.
“This is great news. Obviously we received a budget cut of a larger amount so the work that we’ve done over the last number of months, frankly, was really important work because these funds, along with the work we did, allows us some breathing space to now step back and look at how we move forward,” U of L president Mike Mahon told media Wednesday. “We’re very, very appreciative to the provincial government for them stepping back and looking at the needs of the post-secondary system.”