TORONTO, Sept. 29, 2011 /CNW/ - Despite reports in Sun Media, OPSEU does
not support Conservative Tim Hudak's plan to put "chain gangs" to work
in Ontario communities.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said today that an article
appearing in the Toronto Sun misleads readers into thinking that his union endorses the PC leader's
"tough on criminals" platform.
"Hudak is out of touch with reality if he thinks that Ontarians will
tolerate southern U.S.-style chain gangs here in this province," Thomas
said. "No one wants to drive by rifle-toting guards overseeing manacled
prisoners picking up garbage and chopping weeds."
Dan Sidsworth, the elected chair representing Ontario's 6,000 unionized
provincial correctional officers, said that the Toronto Sun took his comments out of context when he was asked about the feasibility
of Hudak's plan.
"Most correctional officers are in favour of some type of programming
for sentenced offenders," Sidsworth said. "It keeps the inmates
occupied and doing something productive during the day. However, many
programs in our jails were cut by the Conservative government in the
late 1990s, and both the Liberals and the NDP reduced programming as
Sidsworth went on to say that provincially-sentenced inmates, who often
serve less than three months in jail, would have to pass rigorous
screening to be allowed to work in the community.
"We have never spoken to Tim Hudak on his plan, but we want to make it
clear that if such a plan was mandated by the government, no matter by
what party, Correctional Services management would have to negotiate
with us on how the program would be implemented," Sidsworth said. "Our
prime concern is the safety of the community first and then the safety
of our officers. We won't risk lives just to appease politicians and
Thomas said that the best way to get tough on crime is to work towards
preventing convicted criminals from re-offending.
"If Hudak wants programs, put programs in place that will assist
offenders in becoming productive members of Ontario society," Thomas
said. "Let them do work that will actually become an employment skill
they can use. That would benefit Ontario instead of creating a media
circus to bolster Hudak's faltering campaign."
For further information:
Don Ford, OPSEU Communications: (416) 788-9104