A former jail in B.C.’s interior has been converted into a drug rehab centre to treat criminals from the Lower Mainland.

The provincial and federal governments spent $620,000 to convert cells to bunkhouses and classrooms, in the name of curing the region’s most prolific offenders of the addiction that often drives their crimes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to see some of these individuals who have been in and out of jail their whole life and turn their life around, it’s a great thing,” said former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass.

Bass is on the board of the VisionQuest Recovery Society, which will operate the facility in Logan Lake, B.C., about 350 km northeast of Vancouver.

The camp used to house prisoners, and now will have space for 50 men with mental health problems and addictions with the idea of keeping them out of jail.

VisionQuest operates several facilities in the Lower Mainland. Operators said prolific offenders in Vancouver are often stealing cars or committing other crimes in order to feed their drug habits, and if the addiction can be treated, the motivation to commit crime disappears.

“We’re giving them the tools to get out of the system,” said VisionQuest Executive Director Jim O’Rourke.

That’s what happened to Rick Edwards.

“About 6 years ago I got myself messed up with drugs, a couple B&Es and I got court-ordered to VisionQuest,” said Edwards.

“I finished the program, and slowly climbed my way up,” he said, adding he’s now the assistant director of VisionQuest.

The facility will be called “VQ - The Lake” and will be part of the plan to reduce crime in Metro Vancouver, said Burnaby RCMP Staff Sergeant Major John Buis.

“Our job is not to put people in jail, our job is to keep people safe,”Buis said. “If we can do that through a program of recovery, everybody wins.”

Housing Minister Rich Coleman said he hopes the facility will make a difference.

“This is about having a heart and caring about humanity and not putting them in a box. It’s about putting them somewhere where they can succeed,” Coleman said.