Taxpayers are spending thousands of dollars each month on cab fares to return inmates from the Okanagan Correctional Centre near Oliver to their home communities, according to documents obtained through a freedom of information request.
Monthly invoices filed by Penticton Klassic Kabs Inc. covering the last fiscal year – April 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021 – ranged from a high of $10,749 in November 2020 to a low of $2,156 in September 2020.
The costliest fares over that one-year span included a $1,600 trip to Kimberley, which is about 500 kilometres from OCC, and multiple $1,300 runs to Cranbrook, which is about 475 km away.
Taxis were also used multiple times to deliver inmates to cities around the Okanagan, including Kelowna at a cost of $269 per trip, Penticton at $103 and Vernon at $383.
OCC is one of just three provincial jails in the B.C. Interior – the others are in Kamloops and Prince George – and is operated by BC Corrections, which is obligated to return inmates to their home communities after they’ve completed their sentences.
Most inmates are picked up by family, friends or staff from treatment centres, while others catch a ride with jail staff, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
“Taxis are primarily used for those released to catchment areas outside a reasonable drive radius, or if staff availability does not allow for transportation by them,” explained the statement.”
“Notably, the need for taxis increased with the cancellation of Greyhound bus services” in late 2018.
Over the 22-month period from Jan. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2021, OCC released a total of 1,406 inmates, 186 of whom were sent home in cabs, according to the statement.
The statement did not mention if taxis are used at other B.C. jails, but Liberal justice critic Mike Morris believes the eye-popping cost of the service warrants review by the NDP government.
“We got (inmates) down to the Okanagan Correctional Centre in the first place using BC Sheriff Service, so maybe we have to expand that to ensure we have a return policy with that,” said Morris, the MLA for Prince George-Mackenzie.
“What options have they looked at? Do they need to throw a few more sheriffs on and a couple vehicles to accommodate that? Would it be cheaper?”
Morris is also a retired RCMP officer, though, and said returning inmates to their home communities has always been a challenging – and expensive – endeavour in a province as large as B.C.
“It’s probably a hidden cost of COVID too, I guess, if I would call it anything,” added Morris, “and I’m sure BC Corrections are a little bit annoyed about it because it takes scarce money out of their budget.”