Monday's announcement by the provincial government to keep the Sarnia Jail open is a victory for the community groups, including organized labour, that waged a two-year campaign to keep the facility open, says the union representing correctional officers.
"This is a fine example where common sense trumped political expediency," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, representing about 70 correctional officers and support staff at the Sarnia Jail. "And it's an excellent example that when all sectors of a community come together in common cause positive outcomes are achievable."
OPSEU, along with representatives of the criminal justice system, city council, a citizens' group and the local business community, had conducted a two-year 'Save the Jail' campaign to keep the 52-year old facility open in the face of mounting evidence there were no reasonable cost savings to be had by closing it as the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services had insisted. Until yesterday's announcement inmates at the Sarnia Jail were to have been transferred to a new facility in Windsor later this year.
"There are several upsides to this announcement," said Dan Sidsworth, who represents more than 5,000 corrections officer represented by OPSEU across the province. "First is the fact our members get to keep their jobs in their hometown. It will also create additional work in Windsor when the new jail there opens. It's good for those who work in the criminal justice system on behalf of inmates, and it keeps a sizeable payroll in the city of Sarnia which is good for business."
Despite yesterday's good news announcement for Sarnia, Sidsworth said the ministry is going ahead with plans to shut correctional facilities in Chatham and Brantford as previously announced. There are no jobs at risk in either case, he added.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas