OPSEU: Management incompetence led to outbreak at Brampton’s Ontario Correctional Institute

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding that the Ministry of the Solicitor General crack down on the kind of non-transparent management practices that led to the large COVID-19 outbreak and temporary closure of the award-winning Ontario Correctional Institute (OCI) in Brampton.

“This is management incompetence pure and simple,” said Thomas. “For weeks, the people running our jails have ignored the direction of public health officials and know-how of frontline workers who want to keep our jails as safe as possible.”

“The result? More than 60 inmates and eight staff at OCI have all tested positive for COVID-19 and it now has to be temporarily closed.”

Thomas said the blame rests at the top of the ministry management structure.

“The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General has a responsibility to keep corrections workers and inmates safe. The ministry is failing miserably,” said Thomas.

All the correctional workers and inmates at OCI will be temporarily transferred to the Toronto South Detention Centre.

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who is himself a Correctional Officer, said management’s “business as usual” approach at OCI in Brampton has produced a disaster.

“I’m heartbroken that so many people at OCI are becoming sick, and it’s unbelievable that front-line staff’s concerns have been ignored for so long,” said Almeida. “The folks who are actually inside the jail saw this coming weeks ago, but their managers sitting safe and sound in their homes, did nothing. And worse, kept quiet.”

Since the pandemic began, local OPSEU leaders at OCI have been demanding that ministry officials take meaningful steps to enforce social distancing. But up until April 16, most of those demands had been ignored and inmates were still allowed to attend programming, exercising, and were eating together in groups.

“OPSEU members in our institutions are doing everything they can to fight the pandemic,” said Almeida. “They shouldn’t also have to fight managers who don’t listen and don’t pass on critical information.  We demand better. Senior bureaucrats should be leading by example. Society expects and deserves better.”

For more information: 
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931