Trio of dangerous incidents show Ontario's corrections system is in crisis

"This is a major issue not just for Ontario, but for communities across Canada. It's time for us to act," says Public Services Foundation of Canada board member

Ottawa (16 Dec 2015) - In the wake of a number of dangerous events in Ontario provincial correctional facilities over the past week, the Public Services Foundation of Canada (PSFC) is reiterating its calls for action.

"We're calling on federal and provincial governments to recognize that this is a crisis," says James Clancy, a board member of PSFC. "It's a crisis that puts inmates at risk, puts a terrible toll on the women and men working in the facilities, and makes our communities less safe."

Three serious incidents

Over the past week alone, three serious incidents occurred in Ontario jails:

  • There was a riot and hostage-taking in Thunder Bay, which sent a correctional officer to hospital.
  • In Ottawa, inmates were put in lockdown when a number of managers called in sick.
  • In Sudbury, a disturbance resulted in a number of inmates having to be relocated to other jails across the province.

"What happened in Thunder Bay was especially horrific," says Clancy. "But we've been warning of this crisis for the past four or five years."

"Perfect storm"

Clancy says corrections services from one end of the country to the other are suffering a "perfect storm."

"What we've got are jails that are overcrowded. We have a mental health crisis: one in five inmates suffers mental illness or addiction. And we've got gang violence," says Clancy.

"So you put those things together with the fact that the federal government's tough on crime laws have resulted in a huge increase in the number of inmates on remand, and you've got all the ingredients for the event that took place in Thunder Bay."

Crisis in corrections, not just an Ontario problem

Clancy points to the study Crisis in Corrections released earlier this year by the PSFC documents in detail this growing crisis. The study also offers 15 specific recommendations to help defuse the crisis. They include repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing mental health supports, and ensuring that facilities are adequately staffed and funded.

"This is a major issue not just for Ontario but for communities across Canada," says Clancy. "It's time for us to act."

More information

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‘Tough on crime’ policies causing a crisis in provincial jails

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