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Lock Talk:  A Publication of the OPSEU Corrections Campaign

March 30, 2001

Empty boasts

Never let messy old facts get in the way of a good story.

The Ministry of Correctional Services has been touting its correctional prowess over the last week or two, using the newly-constructed Maplehurst superjail and the privatized Camp Turnaround boot camp as examples. These "shining jewels" of Tory innovation are being showcased to the public and the press as the future of correctional services in this province. However, the substance behind these so-called "successes" is as empty as Mike Harrisí seat in the Legislature during Question Period.

Letís take a quick peek at the expanded Maplehurst facility. In the Mar. 16, 2001 Lock Talk, we exposed numerous health and safety problems at the new Milton Hilton. But a recent letter from Local 234 vice president Karl Van Hullenaar clarifies a few of the Ministry claims that the press swallowed whole.

For instance, the new tear gas injection system, which would be used to "force rioting inmates back to their cells," is a wonderful idea. At least it would be, if that system actually existed at Maplehurst. HmmÖit would appear that this detail was left out.

How about those new high-tech motion sensors on the perimeter fences? Apparently they work so well that raccoons living on the roof set the alarms off, as well as freight trains passing behind the site. The system has been shut down for months, and will unlikely be activated. Whoops, forgot that point.

But donít forget those 168 cameras that will monitor every inmate movement, which of course will eliminate a lot of those troublesome correctional officers. Problem? 168 cameras, but only eight camera monitors. And only two correctional officers who will be too busy with other duties to watch the monitors uninterrupted. Darn, maybe that was written down on another piece of paper.

But even these omissions pale in light of the complete hoodwinking that is being attempted to prove that Camp Turnaround is an unqualified success. Less than a week after Corrections Parliamentary Assistant Bob Wood told CBC Counterspin viewers that no statistics were available on the camp, a report suddenly appears showing statistics that Camp Turnaround is the best thing since Post-it Notes.

This report, part of a Ministry press release sent out at 8 a.m. last Saturday morning (note the timing on that), claims that Camp Turnaround had recidivism rates that were "consistently lower than the rates for a comparable sample of youth who were not exposed to the program." The report also claimed that another success of the boot camp was lower per diem rates - $214 per day compared with an average of $331 per day in the public system.

No wonder the Tories are blowing their trumpets. Results like this are a dream come true! Privatization and strict discipline really works!

Now, time for a big bite of the reality sandwich. What was NOT mentioned in the Ministry press releases was MPP Woodís OTHER comment on Counterspin. Specifically, Wood admitted, "We choose offenders (for Camp Turnaround) that have the most likely chance to succeed." Translation? The offenders are cherry-picked as being those who are least likely to re-offend. Even though every union member working with young offenders has known this since the boot camp opened, to our knowledge it is the first time a Ministry official has made that admission.

Gosharootie, what a huge shock! Specially chosen, non-violent, unlikely to commit another crime young offenders have lower recidivism rates! And these same offenders, who donít have severe psychiatric problems, medical concerns or violent histories, are cheaper to supervise!

With a deck stacked like that, a chimpanzee could administrate that camp and be successful.

Perhaps the Tories are relying on the concept that if you tell half the story, and scream it loud enough, people will believe. What the Ministry doesnít say is what it will do when it attempts to expand privatization and it becomes more and more difficult to cherry-pick the best inmates from the system.

All of this begs the question: if you have to mislead the public so badly about a government initiative, whatís the real reason for the scheme?

Grievance win may throw wrench into superjail

A grievance win for employees who are transferred to a private employer could throw a major wrench into the planned privatization of the Penetanguishene superjail.

The Grievance Settlement Board (GSB) decision, issued this week by Vice-Chair Richard Brown, defines seniority protection for members with respect to lay-off and job competition. This decision falls on the heels of another GSB decision issued this week by Vice-Chair Deborah Leighton, which also ordered the seniority protection for current and former members of Syl Apps Youth Centre.

The Board decision makes it clear that members who transfer to a private employer under the Request for Proposal (RFP) process will have their seniority recognized at the new workplace, even among those who are hired from outside the OPS. This is a major win under the OPS Collective Agreementís "Reasonable Efforts" clause, the basis for which the employer could transfer members to the private sector.

The award ensures that for job competitions with the new employer, applicants who are "relatively equal" in qualifications will be chosen based on seniority. Length of service will also be the deciding factor if the new employer has to lay off workers.

What will this mean for employees at the four institutions (Barrie Jail, Burtch C.C., Guelph C.C. and Parry Sound Jail) who are affected by the Penetang transfer? Essentially, all employees will have to be given the opportunity to choose again whether they wish to go to Penetanguishene. The employer will also have to amend the RFP to reflect the seniority rights.

We somehow doubt that this new twist is making the facility more attractive for a private operator, especially when they canít easily get rid of experienced staff who know how a jail should really run.


An inmate who decided he liked the outside of the bars a lot better than the inside got a brief taste of freedom from Mimico C.C. on Wednesday. Very brief.

The inmate, who had been issued a Temporary Absence Permit to clean outside the institution, decided to take a quick little stroll up Horner Avenue. Luckily, a staff member on the roof of the adjoining Toronto Youth Assessment Centre spotted the inmate. After a few quick radio calls and notification to Toronto Police, the chase was on.

Three correctional officers from Mimico (including one whom was officially on his break) jumped into one of their personal automobiles to track down the unwary suspect.

The officers began their search, and noticed a Toronto police cruiser leaving the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. Despite knowing that the police had already checked the area, the officers, acting on a hunch, decided to search the lot again. Sure enough, the inmate was spotted hiding behind the building. The inmate gave himself up to the correctional officers without a struggle.

Once again, dedicated, professional public service correctional officers have proved that there is no substitute for experience and instinct. Something that will be sorely lacking in a privatized jail.

Well done, officers. Itís hard for the government to beat actions with rhetoric.

Lindsay elects watchdogs

Members who are destined to work in the Lindsay superjail can breathe a little easier knowing that three experienced OPSEU activists will be watching out for their health and safety.

At the Mar. 22, 2001 Lindsay superjail liaison meeting, Steve Clancy of Local 308 (Peterborough Jail), Dana Burrage and Larry Cripps (both of Local 309, Lindsay Jail) were elected to sit on the superjail liaisonís health and safety sub-committee.

Congratulations guys! Our members are in very good hands.

See you at Convention

Donít forget to attend the Corrections caucus at this yearís OPSEU Convention. The caucus is at 12 noon on Thursday, April 5 in Conference Rooms D & E.


For campaign information, call Don Ford (ext. 442) or Pam Doig (ext. 687) at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888.

e-mail: or

.Ontario Public Service Employees Union
100 Lesmill Road, Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8
Original authorized for distribution by Leah Casselman, president.

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Ontario Public Service Employees Union, 100 Lesmill Rd. Toronto, ON M3B 3P8  (416) 443-8888