OPSEU denounces Sun story implying support for Hudak

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 well."

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 their promises."

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."


SOURCE OPSEU

For further information:

Don Ford, OPSEU Communications: (416) 788-9104


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