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OPSEU on the crisis in corrections: ‘Finish the job’

Toronto – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is urging the government to honour its commitment to end to the continuing crisis in Ontario’s correctional system.

The government and correctional workers represented by OPSEU reached a milestone collective agreement in January, with former corrections minister Yasir Naqvi promising “transformational change.” OPSEU presented Naqvi with an extensive list of measures to defuse the crisis, notably:

  • hiring and training hundreds of full-time and fixed-term correctional officers
  • hiring of ancillary corrections staff, notably nurses and mental health workers
  • constructing, repairing, and retrofitting infrastructure to ease chronic overcrowding
  • installing full-body scanners and creating separate facilities for intermittent inmates
  • training officers on handling inmates with mental health problems and addictions

Monte Vieselmeyer, chair of OPSEU’s Corrections Division, said he felt confident that the government would follow through on its promises – but wasn’t letting down his guard.

“Minister Naqvi grasped that the crisis we’ve been living through and talking about for years actually existed – and was getting worse every day. And some improvements have already been made. New recruits are being trained and hired, and full-body scanners are being installed. We’ve seen a regional intermittent centre built at the Elgin-Middlesex facility.

“But much, much more needs urgent attention,” Vieselmeyer concluded, “particularly building new infrastructure. Look no further than the jail in Thunder Bay. It’s vastly overcrowded and crumbling.”

Scott McIntyre, OPSEU probation and parole health and safety chair, had concerns of his own. “We’ve been asking for metal detectors and more secure interview rooms for years now. And we’re still waiting. With the upsurge in mental health and addictions problems, our safety is on the line.”

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU, said that after long years of pressuring the government to address the crisis in corrections, the Liberals were finally listening and taking action.

“I’ve had good conversations with [Corrections Minister] David Orazietti, and he understands the seriousness of the crisis. Corrections is a hard-sell. He’ll have a tough job getting his Cabinet onside. But I think he has the resolve to get the extensive funding needed to fix a badly broken system.

“I’m extremely proud of our correctional workers,” Thomas continued, “particularly their unwavering professionalism and dedication to keeping our communities safe in the midst of this crisis. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their heroic efforts in keeping afloat a sinking ship.”

For more information: Monte Vieselmeyer, 705-627-1942

Related: Crisis In Corrections index page