Ottawa jail's physical infrastructure needs work, union head says
'Even though they're trying to pump some resources into our institution, our institution is only so big'
While overcrowding, understaffing and other issues are improving at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, the jail's aging infrastructure can only support so much, according to the head of the union representing its correctional officers.
"Subtle" improvements made so far include staffing increases, less crowding and bail system changes, said Denis Collin, president of OPSEU Local 411, on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Thursday.
But the big issue is the physicality of the jail, he believes.
"Even though they're trying to pump some resources into our institution, our institution is only so big and we are now making interview rooms out of closets, or our step-down units are really hallways converted into a step-down unit," Collin said.
"I'm putting the ministry to task, saying it's a step in the right direction; we're recognizing that we're taking people out of segregation, we're giving them some day room time, [which is] much-needed, but that is not enough for me. We are the nation's capital, and we need a state-of-the-art situation for mental health and addiction."
Because the jail is in Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde's city, Collin hopes "some tender loving care" will be given to OCDC.
'We need to improve'
On Friday, Lalonde told Ottawa Morning she recently took a five-hour tour of the jail.
"I saw an aging institution, but at the same time I saw a lot of people there, correctional officers, nurses, management, who are very … positive to work with us to improve their working conditions but also the safety and well-being of the inmates," Lalonde said.
"We know we need to improve. That's why the recommendations are there. That's why the task force was created. So I'm not disputing."
So far all the short-term goals of the OCDC task force have been implemented, Lalonde said, and work continues on meeting the medium- and long-term recommendations.