More officers a good start to addressing the crisis in corrections: Thomas

TORONTO, March 21, 2016 /CNW/ - The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union is applauding the government's plan, announced today, to hire 2,000 correctional officers over the next three years. Warren (Smokey) Thomas says he is "relieved" the government is finally doing something to ease the escalating crisis in correctional services.

"Until now, the Liberals have ignored our warnings about this crisis, which has reached the critical point since we first raised it six years ago after [former Premier] Dalton McGuinty's hiring freeze on correctional officers.

"To his credit, Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi accepted my invitation to tour some of our correctional facilities. I think he was shocked to see the deplorable conditions inmates were living in – and correctional officers were working under. Clearly, something had to be done, and done quickly."

Getting 2,000 new officers on the front lines comes with questions and challenges, Thomas said.

"I've got a lot of questions about this announcement," he said. "Are these new hires going to be full‑time permanent, or casual? Will there be financial help for candidates to go through the training program? Will new officers get training in dealing with inmates with mental health issues?"

Thomas called on Minister Naqvi to strike an interministerial committee, with representatives from Children and Youth Services, Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Health and Long‑Term Care, to take a comprehensive look at mental health services and ways to divert people with mental health issues away from the justice system.

Thomas said today's announcement, while welcome, would not end the crisis in correctional services.

"Facilities across the province are old and bursting at the seams," he said. "We badly need extensive repairs, updated equipment, and greater capacity. That's going to take money – money I didn't see allocated in the 2016 provincial budget."

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931


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