TORONTO, July 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Staff in Ontario's provincial
correctional facilities are bracing for even more jail overcrowding
under new federal crime legislation.
The Conservative government has included major changes to the way
criminals are punished in the so-called Omnibus budget legislation
passed in the House of Commons this spring. Bill C-10, otherwise known
as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, includes provisions for
mandatory minimum sentences, fewer conditional sentences and harsher
sentences for young offenders. The bill will also eliminate double
credit for time already served. These changes will stuff more prisoners
into already overcrowded jails. Criminologists predict higher costs for
taxpayers with no reduction in crime. Corrections officers fear more
tension and violence.
"Corrections officers accept a certain level of stress as part of the
job," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President. "You stir in
overcrowding into the living units and the stress level multiplies
In federal prisons "double-bunking" squeezes more prisoners into jails
designed to accommodate one inmate per cell. In Ontario jails, most
single cells have been modified to house two inmates, and often sleep
three or even four.
"With the overcrowding we are seeing a level of violence in our jails
that is unprecedented," said Dan Sidsworth, Provincial Chair of OPSEU's
Corrections Division. "Last year OPSEU recorded 485 assaults made by
prisoners against Ontario correctional officers, something that is
compounded by overcrowding. We fear this trend is continuing and it is
only getting worse when added to other issues like the province's
two-year hiring freeze on correctional officers and increased gang
activity inside the jails."
With the changes scheduled under Bill C-10, prisons will only get more
crowded through 2020. "The Ministry of Community Safety and
Correctional Services has no plan in place to deal with this issue,"
Sidsworth said. "Two new prisons planned to open in the next two years
will only marginally increase prisoner capacity, and will fall far
short of the projected total inmate population by that time."
For further information:
Dan Sidsworth: 905-878-8141 ex.2415 (w), 905-691-7955 (c)