Toronto – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is expressing grave disappointment in light of a standardized email that some Liberal MPPs are using to respond to the union’s campaign on the crisis in Ontario’s correctional system.
“It’s very discouraging when government MPPs try to deny that our correctional system is in crisis,” said Chris Jackel, chair of the bargaining team for the Correctional bargaining unit. “It shows just how completely out of touch the government is with the reality in corrections.”
In recent days, some Liberal MPPs have sent out a common response consisting of material gathered from various areas of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which are responsible for the correctional system.
“These messages are highly politicized,” Jackel explained. “They’re the kind of non-response politicians use at Question Period to avoid answering difficult questions. When you use them to respond to the genuine concerns of workers on the ground, they’re just a slap in the face.”
As an example, Jackel took the government’s assertion that “Ontario’s streets are safer than ever.” Jackel described the claim as “preposterous.” He pointed out that a Global News investigation revealed there are no compliance checks for 50,000 offenders in the community – including sex offenders. Further, Ontario has the country’s highest recidivism rates.
“We desperately need more probation and parole officers with effective compliance powers,” said Jackel. “Until then, our streets are not safe – not in the real world.”
Further endangering Ontario’s communities is a severe and chronic shortage of correctional officers to keep watch over swollen prison populations.
“The government boasts of a commitment to hire 2,000 new correctional officers,” said Jackel. “In fact, only 1,600 have been hired – part-time officers whose main purpose is back-filling for full-time correctional officers on approved leave. Again, in the real world, that’s a zero increase in staff.”
“Recent corrections ministers’ statements had me believing the government had finally clued into the crisis in corrections” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. “This kind of silly game-playing is just counterproductive. I hope they’re taking a more serious approach to negotiations with our correctional bargaining team, which is trying hard to fix the crisis in corrections.”