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Ombudsman’s report highlights crisis in corrections: OPSEU

Toronto – The Ontario Ombudsman’s report on segregation, Out of Oversight, Out of Mind, makes important recommendations for improving segregation but also underscores aspects of the ongoing crisis in corrections, according to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

In his report, the Ombudsman Paul Dubé says the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services must invest in extensive training for correctional staff and provide them with essential resources, notably, computers and time during shifts to perform segregation-related reporting.

“The Ombudsman is very clear that the ministry has failed to give frontline staff the tools they need to properly manage segregation,” noted Monte Vieselmeyer, chair of the Ministry Employee Relations Committee for Correctional Services. “I refer to these tools as the three T’s: training, technology, and time.

“Of course, none of these things comes without a price tag,” Vieselmeyer added. “They require substantial funding and staffing investments by the ministry. If they’re serious about easing the crisis around segregation, they have to address the larger crisis in corrections.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said he appreciated the Ombudsman’s efforts on segregation, but insisted the government move beyond generating more recommendations to taking concrete action, notably with regard to mental health.

“Fifty per cent or more of the prison population have addictions and/or mental health issues,” Thomas pointed out. “Mr. Dubé notes the effect of segregation on these individuals and the need for alternatives.

“That’s exactly what we’ve been saying for years,” Thomas continued. “The fact is, our correctional system has become the mental health system of last resort, because this government has starved the mental health system and removed supports to individuals with mental health issues.

“None of this is new – it’s all about a properly funded corrections system and properly funded public services,” he said. “There’s just no getting around it, and nothing is going to change until this government finally takes responsibility for easing the crises that its austerity agenda has created.

“The government has a chance to demonstrate its sincerity in addressing the crisis in corrections by providing real dollars for real services for real people in next week’s provincial budget.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Monte Vieselmeyer, 705-627-1942