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Doug Ford must wake up and address the Crisis in Corrections now!

A statement from OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas on the Toronto South Detention Centre:

The latest condemnation of the state of Ontario’s jails should prompt Premier Ford and his government to take action immediately to tackle the Crisis in Corrections.

Yet another judge has blasted the government over the appalling conditions in the province’s jails.

The Premier and every member of his Cabinet should take the time to read Justice Andras Schreck’s ruling concerning a man housed in the Toronto South Detention Centre.

It should be a loud wakeup call to any government when a judge calls the inhumane conditions at Toronto South a “form of deliberate state misconduct.”

Justice Schreck is not the first member of the bench to comment on the conditions in Toronto South, and his words can easily be applied to most correctional institutions in Ontario.

The judiciary’s role in the justice system is to ensure people accused of crimes get treated fairly and humanely. When judge after judge draws attention to the appalling state of Ontario’s jails, it’s scandalous that governments haven’t taken these warnings seriously.

Justice Schreck’s words come as no surprise to the employees who work at the institutions, front-line workers my union is proud to represent.

For years, OPSEU has pleaded with Liberal and Conservatives governments to take action to address the overcrowding, inadequate staffing and lack of training in our correctional system.

Human beings are being held in our jails, they are being warehoused. I remind the government that many of them are in pretrial custody.

The only humane solution to the overcrowding is one inmate per cell. Will it cost more? Yes. However, the justice system is not a business and should not be viewed through that lens.

The living conditions of inmates behind bars are the working conditions are our members.

The men and women who work in Ontario’s corrections system are too often trying to plug holes as the dam bursts around them.  They’re hopelessly understaffed and many have suffered burnout, PTSD and often physical injuries.

We’ve repeatedly raised these issues with government after government, but sadly, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. When the Conservatives were in Opposition, they promised to fix the problems in our correctional system. It’s time for the Premier, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Labour Minister Monte McNaughton to step up and keep that promise.

In the past, I’ve invited the Premier to join me for a visit of Toronto South, and I am making that offer again now. If he would take the time to listen to our front-line members and see the conditions for himself, he would realize action is needed now.

The government must commit to significant investment in this year’s budget, but the Premier shouldn’t even wait that long.

Action is needed now. This problem has been neglected for far too long.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas