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Ontario Public Service

‘Save Our Jails’ campaign sweeps through Queen’s Park

More than two dozen MPPs and political aides attended a breakfast briefing at Queen’s Park today where they were told by OPSEU correctional officers that proposed jail closings in Owen Sound, Walkerton and Sarnia are unnecessary and will take good jobs from those communities.

Hosted by the Corrections MERC team and campaign mobilizers, the briefing provided a timely opportunity to explain how the closures will harm the economies of local communities by eliminating well-paying local jobs and transferring them elsewhere.

And, contrary to the government’s position that the closures will be “cost effective,” the correctional officers told the MPPs that, in fact, the transfer of inmates to Penetanguishene (from Walkerton and Owen Sound) will actually increase costs because of greater travel distances.

Correctional facilities in Walkerton and Owen Sound could close as soon as Aug. 31. Sarnia is scheduled to close in 2013. In addition, a 200-inmate wing at Toronto West Detention Centre is scheduled to shut down in 2012 with staff being transferred to the new Toronto South Detention Centre.

“No matter how you cut it, this was a bad decision made for all the wrong reasons,” said Dave Esser, president of Local 128 representing correctional officers in Sarnia. “The government should stop the closures pending a full review of its decision.”

Correctional officers are calling for a review in which all groups, including frontline workers, community support organizers, police, probation and probation and parole officers and representatives of the local community justice system, can examine alternatives to shutting down the facilities.

MPPs from all parties, including Liberal cabinet ministers Kathleen Wynn and John Garretsen, attended the breakfast briefing which was held in the Legislative dining room at Queen’s Park