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New jail for Thunder Bay: ‘10 years is too long’

Thunder Bay – A steward with Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 737 representing frontline staff at the Thunder Bay District Jail is expressing disbelief on learning that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Safety will delay construction of a new jail for seven to 10 years.

In a letter to Corrections Minister David Orazietti, Michael Lundy said he was informed of the timeline by a ministry official connected to the project. He described the serious negative consequences of the delay on both correctional staff and inmates.

“Ten years has a much bigger impact than you can imagine. Ten years means no significant inmate programming. It means no gym or wellness area for staff for 10 years. It means 10 years of high staff turnover and lack of staff retention. It means 10 more years of deplorable inmate living conditions and 10 more years of eroding health and safety conditions for staff.”

Lundy went on to underscore that plans for a new jail were completed in 2002 – meaning it will have taken a quarter-century from identifying the need to filling it.

“The truth is that this is a result of decades of neglect,” Lundy concluded. “We are looking for someone to fix the problem. Minister Orazietti, will you be that person? Will you step in and say 10 years is too long? Will you go to Treasury Board and say that we need money now, today, to have a new jail in Thunder Bay within five years?”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said he echoed Lundy’s concerns.

“The Liberals knew Thunder Bay needed a new jail when they came to power in 2003. But they sat on their hands even as the jail crumbled, staffing declined, and the inmate population exploded. Last year, there was a full-blown riot because of horrendous living conditions and lack of inmate programming. A correctional officer was taken hostage and sent to hospital. This year, a dangerous inmate escaped, endangering communities from here to Alberta.

“When it comes to rehabilitating inmates and protecting communities, the Liberals say 10 years is good enough. Well, it’s not even remotely good enough. Ten years is too long.”

A new funding announcement today from Minister Orazietti made no mention of the problems in Thunder Bay.

For more information: Michael Lundy, 807-472-1951

Related: Crisis In Corrections index page