OPSEU hails latest measures to fix crisis in corrections

“It’s imperative that front-line workers, through their union, are consulted every step of the way during the design and build. The eyes of Corrections staff are everywhere. We know what keeps communities safe. Developers are only looking at their bottom line.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (31 Aug. 2020) — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), is applauding the Ford government for stepping up with more investment to address chronic problems in Ontario’s correctional system.

“I’m extremely pleased to see the government making good on its plan to fix the crisis in Corrections,” said Thomas. “Taking practical, meaningful steps to relieve the crisis is long overdue – and COVID-19 has made solutions even more urgent. I appreciate that the Premier has taken the time to sit down with me and listen to advice from the front-line workers that OPSEU represents.”

Overcrowding, mental health, and other problems addressed

In her announcement, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones put forward an “Eastern Region Adult Corrections Strategy” to relieve overcrowding, expand mental health supports, and improve inmate services and programming. The province will build new facilities in Kemptville and Brockville, retrofit the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, and expand St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre and Quinte Detention Centre.

“This is yet another positive step in the transformation of Ontario Corrections,” said Chris Jackel, chair of OPSEU’s Corrections Division. “We've advocated for new infrastructure for years. This will go a long way in ensuring professional service delivery, especially in the Eastern Region.”

Timely action is needed

OPSEU/NUPGE, which represents 9,500 front-line Corrections members, praised the government when it announced a $500-million investment in Corrections in April but said that timely action was needed. Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer and a correctional officer, says the new strategy goes a long way to responding to the union’s concerns.

“This announcement puts yet more resources in the Corrections system. I’m particularly happy to see the new infrastructure improvements,” said Almeida. “But the proof is in the pudding, and I’ll be even happier when I see shovels in the ground. These projects can’t be completed soon enough.”

Front-line workers must be consulted during design and build

Thomas also offered some advice on the funding model for design and construction. “We’ve seen the costly and dangerous disasters that have come out of Corrections public-private partnerships built by the previous government, including Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care and Toronto South Detention Centre, known as the ‘mistake by the lake’.”

“Front-line workers know far more about on-the-ground Corrections than private-sector developers looking to make a buck. It’s imperative that front-line workers, through their union, are consulted every step of the way during the design and build. The eyes of Corrections staff are everywhere. We know what keeps communities safe. Developers are only looking at their bottom line.”

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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