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Thomas slams PC handsitting on corrections as ‘reckless and irresponsible’

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he will expect the Ford government’s first budget to include significant measures to repair Ontario’s badly neglected corrections system.

“We’ve seen the Conservatives make a lot of promises to the workers who are holding the system together, but we’ve yet to see a single promise kept,” Thomas, who was joined by corrections division union leaders Chris Jackel and Janet Laverty, told a Queen’s Park news conference Thursday.

“When the Tories were in opposition, they were on their feet in the legislature calling out the Liberals for shirking their responsibility to keep correctional officers and inmates and our communities safe,” noted Thomas. “It’s time for the Conservatives to put our money where their mouths are in next month’s budget.”

Thomas also repeated his invitation to Premier Doug Ford and the opposition leaders to join him on a tour of a correctional facility. “The only way to truly understand the staggering problems causing the Crisis in Corrections is to talk to frontline workers,” said Thomas. “Doug, come out of your bubble and learn from some of the unsung heroes of law enforcement.”

Jackel agreed, noting that Toronto South Detention Centre was a “poster child” for yet another failed public-private partnership. “It’s known as the ‘mistake by the lake,’” he said. “This institution was poorly designed, is rife with flaws, and has cost Ontario taxpayers more money to fix than it cost to build. This is what happens when a jail is built based on a P3 model.”

Jackel pointed to the recent vicious and premeditated assaults on correctional officers at Toronto South as evidence the crisis continues. “Despite soaring rates of violence and bulging inmate populations, only 24 new full-time correctional officer positions have been created in recent years.”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, himself a correctional officer, says there is a disconnect between Ford and Ontarians about the work corrections staff do. “I believe Ontarians greatly appreciate and respect the work our corrections workers do. They know our members work in some of the most dangerous conditions in Canada, but Ford won’t even give them the time of day. It’s shameful and totally unacceptable.”

“Enough with the reports and studies,” said Thomas. “What we need is action. Hire more officers and train them properly. Build new jails. Retrofit old ones. And Doug, do yourself a favour and listen to the unions that represent frontline workers, we have the solutions.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Chris Jackel, cmjackel.corr.merc@gmail.com