Ontario jails in crisis: Brown

Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi By Gerald V. Paul
Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi
By Gerald V. Paul

Opposition Leader Patrick Brown is calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to act on “the crisis in correctional services and the need for urgent action” in Ontario jails.
In a letter hand delivered to Wynne and copied to Minister of Community Safety and Correction Services Yasir Naqvi, Brown said Ontario’s jails are overcrowded, understaffed and increasingly violent.
“Our correctional officers work in some of the most dilapidated jails in Ontario, often with a significant safety risk not just for inmates but for staff themselves,” Brown wrote.
“Ontario’s hard working correctional officers deserve our appreciation and respect. Your government has an obligation to correctional officers to remedy the situation. Now with Ontario’s correction officers moving closer towards a strike following the union’s rejection of the government’s tentative agreement, there is a greater need for the government to take urgent action.
Brown recalled his visit to Thunder Bay District Jail just days after a riot occurred in which the top floor was destroyed and correctional officer Murray Butler was held hostage.
He lamented what he called deplorable conditions and charged that the building does not meet the needs of the inmate population and the security conditions are archaic.
Brown said the Thunder Bay facility is not the only Ontario jail in crisis. “At jails throughout the province, we continue to hear of a number of troubles from riots to overcrowding.”
He noted assaults against correctional officers have increased. In 2010, 321 staff members were assaulted in the province’s jails. By 2013, OPSEU reported that rose to 855. Moreover, many correctional officers feel there is a double standard where consequences are rarely applied to inmates who assault an officer.