OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas said that Corrections Miniser Naqvi seemed "shocked to see the deplorable conditions inmates were living in — and correctional officers were working under. Clearly, something had to be done, and done quickly.”
Toronto (23 March 2016) — The President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is applauding the government’s plan, announced today, to hire 2,000 correctional officers over the next 3 years. Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he is “relieved” the government is finally doing something to ease the escalating crisis in correctional services.
Ontario government acts after intense pressure from OPSEU/NUPGE
“Until now, the Liberals have ignored our warnings about this crisis that has reached the critical point since we first raised it six years ago after [former premier] Dalton McGuinty’s hiring freeze on correctional officers," Thomas said.
“To his credit, Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi accepted my invitation to tour some of our correctional facilities. I think he was shocked to see the deplorable conditions inmates were living in — and correctional officers were working under. Clearly, something had to be done, and done quickly.”
Getting 2,000 new officers on the front lines comes with questions and challenges, Thomas said.
Details needed about hiring
“I’ve got a lot of questions about this announcement,” he said. “Are these new hires going to be full‑time permanent, or casual? Will there be financial help for candidates to go through the training program? Will new officers get training in dealing with inmates with mental health issues?”
Thomas called on Minister Naqvi to strike an inter-ministerial committee, with representatives from Children and Youth Services, Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Health and Long‑Term Care, to take a comprehensive look at mental health services and ways to divert people with mental health issues away from the justice system.
More to do to fix crisis in corrections
Thomas said today’s announcement, while welcome, would not end the crisis in correctional services.
“Facilities across the province are old and bursting at the seams,” he said. “We badly need extensive repairs, updated equipment, and greater capacity. That’s going to take money — money I didn’t see allocated in the 2016 provincial budget," Thomas said.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE