Toronto – The union representing 9,000 Ontario correctional workers is expressing concern over the Ford government’s decision to eliminate the Offender Transport Unit within Ontario’s Correctional Service, effective September 9, 2019.
“The people of Ontario know by now that the province’s correctional service is in a state of crisis, because we have been warning about it for years,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Apart from a few, mostly token, actions, our would-be law-and-order government has done nothing to solve it. Getting rid of our bailiffs only risks making the crisis worse.”
Provincial bailiffs transport accused and convicted inmates. This is a vital function, as it eases overcrowding and moves problematic inmates, some of whom are extremely dangerous. Their transportation will now fall exclusively to correctional officers. While Ontario’s correctional officers are considered to be among the best in Canada, they have not been trained in transporting multiple inmates at a time for hours across the province, sometimes during treacherous weather and road conditions.
“Currently, bailiffs and correctional officers receive extensive training on all aspects of their jobs,” said Chris Jackel, OPSEU chair representing correctional workers. “However, as of yesterday, correctional officers are lacking training and direction in some aspects of this job – particularly with transporting multiple inmates. If not addressed quickly, there could be safety consequences.
“This short-sighted decision will deplete already low staff resources, as officers are pulled out of the institutions and into vehicles,” Jackel added. We don’t believe there will be any cost savings, quite frankly – and it’s no way to end the crisis in corrections.”
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida is a correctional officer. He says he knows from experience that correctional officers will require additional specialized training to do this work. “They need it to stay safe, to keep inmates safe, and to keep our communities safe. If clear direction, policy and training in the very near future are not provided, someone could get hurt.”
“The bottom line is, Ontarians need and deserve a correctional system that’s as secure as possible,” said Thomas. “Instead of this nickel-and-diming, how about the government making real investments in new correctional officer positions, new training, and desperately needed new institutions and retrofits of overcrowded, crumbling institutions? Anything less is just window-dressing.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Chris Jackel, firstname.lastname@example.org