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Corrections adviser recommends overhaul to address violence in Ontario jails

TORONTO – A report from Ontario’s independent corrections adviser has made a number of recommendations aimed at making jails safer, in response to an increase in reported inmate-on-staff violence at the province’s correctional institutions.

In a report released Thursday, Howard Sapers makes 42 recommendations to the province’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, including overhauling data management, improving workplace culture and enhancing training for correctional employees.

Sapers and his team said such reforms could significantly improve the safety of employees and inmates.

“Public safety work can be stressful. Being in conflict with the law can be stressful. Ignoring these obvious realities when we hire, train, and manage corrections staff – and build and operate our prisons and jails – bring serious consequences, including violence,” the report states.

Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said she is reviewing the report and its recommendations, but she reiterated the Progressive Conservative government’s pledge to move ahead with correctional reform.


“The government has been clear in our commitment to moving forward to reform the correctional services across this province,” Jones said in a statement, adding that the Sapers report will be made public on the ministry’s website in early January.

Jones also said she will be in regular contact with the province’s frontline corrections officers to determine how to implement the report’s recommendations.

According to the ministry’s own findings, reports of inmate-on-staff violence have increased significantly over the last five years, with about 350 reported cases in 2012 and nearly 1,400 in 2017.

The Sapers report argues that some incident types _ such as threats and spitting _ may simply be getting reported more frequently, but others – such as physical assaults – cannot be explained in the same way.

The report included survey responses from more than 1,300 staff members from all of Ontario’s 25 correctional institutions, most of whom were corrections officers.

The survey found that just over half of the correctional officers reported that they did not feel safe at work. Two-thirds of respondents in all other positions – such as administrative, housekeeping and support staff – reported that they felt safe at their facility. The report also found that 66 per cent of frontline officers indicated that they worried about being assaulted by an inmate at least once a week.

Meantime, 26 per cent of respondents said use of force was a “key mechanism” in keeping their institution safe.

“A general punitive and discipline-oriented philosophy, particularly among correctional officers, emerged from responses,” the report states. “Given the ministry’s emphasis on using force as a last resort, this finding highlights the need for greater emphasis on verbal de-escalation and defusion skills in staff training.”

Sapers also criticized the ministry for focusing on increasing the hiring of correctional officers rather than updated training, saying that over half of correctional officer respondents reported that they did not feel prepared to start working immediately after being hired.

In 2016, the ministry committed to hiring 2,000 officers over three years.

The findings also revealed inconsistencies in how violent incidents are reported to the ministry, and the report’s 42 recommendations include a call for an overhaul of how the ministry collects and analyses reported incidents of violence.

The report also urged that programs and treatments options be enhanced for inmates.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Canadian Press

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2 Comments » for Corrections adviser recommends overhaul to address violence in Ontario jails
  1. Michael Laderoute says:

    With regards to the story of the Corrections Advisor recommending changes. I do not know what he is recommending, but I have just retired after 40 years as a Correctional Officer in Ontario. I was a health and safety certified Union rep. as well for the last 16 years. This Ministry is so out of touch with what goes on in the facilities it is unbelievably scary. This Ministry promotes “yes” people who they have under thumb for disciopline issues, FUMU people, and politically correct people such as diversity, who have no idea how to manage and protect the floor staff.
    We all know there is risks when you take the job, however the risks can be greatly minimized by proper supervision with people that know what they are doing.
    The new staff that they have just recently hired for the most part agree on two things, 1. They were lied to at the college on what the job is really like and 2. they are not anywhere prepared for the job after the six week college course.
    I have seen staff injured due to supervisors making decisions that fall directly against the standing orders of the facility and we tried to get something done through the Ministry of Labour to have this supervisor disciplined. However we believe that the Corrections mininster or deputy spoke with the Ministry of Labour minister or deputy and the complaint was quashed as has so many other issues with the Ministry of Labour. Make no mistake Correctional Officers believe that the minisrty of labour is part of the problem.
    There are many issues related to the violence in Corrections and I only hope that this not another white wash report.

  2. Michael Laderoute says:

    This report is a joke. I just retired after 40 years in corrections. Just so the public is aware, these are no boy scouts that have been accidently arrested for some trivial issue. These are murderers, sexual assaulters, pedophiles, drug dealers, drug makers, gun smugglers, human traffickers, sociopaths, psychopaths and just plain deranged individuals. They do not — and I repeat — do not give a damn about a normal person in any way. They will kill or injure you without a moment’s thought. Just ask anyone who has, say had their vehicle stolen at gun point. These criminals are only shells of people; they have no feelings, no concerns for anyone except themselves and for the most part, don’t give a damn about themselves. They want to do what they want, when they want to do it with no concern for anyone. They are what they are: criminals who just meet the requirement to be a human being.

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