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Government ignoring crisis in community corrections

Toronto – The Ontario government continues to deny there is a crisis in community corrections, jeopardizing the well-being and safety of probation and parole officers, inmates, and communities.

That is the urgent warning from some 900 probation and parole officers, who struggle with the highest number of caseloads per officer in the country, according to provincial Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk. Lysyk also points out that Ontario is second-last in spending on community corrections.

OPSEU probation and parole representative Scott McIntyre said it was imperative that the government acknowledge the crisis, and take immediate steps to remedy it.

“Workload demands have taken a huge toll on officers, and it’s reached the critical point,” he said. “Not many people realize that there are far more offenders living in the community than in institutions.

“Something has to give, whether it be officers’ health, the rehabilitation of inmates, the safety of our communities – or a combination of all three. I’m very concerned.”

“We’ve become multiple-service providers,” said probation and parole officer Danielle Du Sablon. “We’ve evolved into clinicians, victim counsellors, program delivery officers, and mental health workers. We’re wearing too many hats, and we’re exhausted.

“We just need the government to come to the table with a genuine willingness to discuss solutions.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas echoed McIntyre’s and Du Sablon’s concerns. “This government is cutting off its nose to spite its face,” he said. “It’s incredibly irresponsible and ultimately self-defeating to deal with a problem by pretending it doesn’t exist.

“The Liberals need to listen to their frontline staff, acknowledge there’s a crisis, and hire the extra staff to deal with it. By fixating on austerity, they’re just courting disaster.”

For more information: Scott R. McIntyre, 705-477-1931

Related: Crisis In Corrections index page