News / Ottawa

Minister to form working group to address overcrowding in jails, says OPSEU

After touring the Ottawa jail on Innes Road this week, OPSEU president Warren "Smokey" Thomas said he had a productive meeting with Minister Naqvi Wednesday.

OPSEU president Warren "Smokey" Thomas called the Ottawa jail "the worst" in the province after touring the facility on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.

Joe Lofaro/Metro

OPSEU president Warren "Smokey" Thomas called the Ottawa jail "the worst" in the province after touring the facility on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.

The union representing Ontario's correctional officers says Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi will create a working group to deal with overcrowding in Ontario jails.

This comes after OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas toured the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre Tuesday to see firsthand the conditions inside.

After the tour, the told reporters at the front gate it was “the worst” he has seen in the whole province.

He said his meeting with Minister Naqvi went “very well” Wednesday as they discussed the issues plaguing the province’s jails. Overcrowding and access to mental health services are two of OPSEU’s biggest concerns.

Thomas is calling on the province to earmark $100 million in its upcoming spring budget to address the overcrowding problems and under-staffing in the jails.

He said Tuesday he was surprised to see mattresses on the floor of shower stalls in the segregation unit. It was the first time he had heard of inmates using showers as cells, he said.

The press secretary for Naqvi said in a statement Thomas’ claims about the showers were “completely inaccurate.”

Thomas said he stands by his comments.

“I know what I saw,” he said. “We saw mattresses on the floor.”

He said he saw some cells “that you wouldn’t put an animal in, never mind a human being.”

The “grossly overcrowded” Ottawa jail on Innes Road still needs about 100 new correctional officers, he said, as some are close to retirement.

In a statement Tuesday, press secretary Lauren Callighen said the province has hired 33 new correctional officers for the OCDC since 2013, including six new correctional officers who started working in December. Another 13 are currently being trained and another 40 are being recruited for the OCDC, she said.

"The minister and Smokey Thomas had a productive meeting today, where they discussed his tour and improvements that could be made both at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre and at correctional facilities across the province," Callighen said in an email.

"There was mutual agreement on the need to move forward with our transformation and to make real progress on reducing the number of people in our jails and helping to break the cycle – be it through enriched community supports, improved access to rehabilitation programs, facility upgrades or training for correctional officers."

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