Human Rights Commission head argues for corrections funding in Thunder Bay
The main recommendation is to address overcrowding, Renu Mandhane said
The chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission was in Thunder Bay, Ont., Tuesday, urging the standing committee on finance and economic affairs – which is conducting consultations on the 2020 budget – to invest in the corrections system.
The commission teamed up with the Management Employee Relations Committee of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union, which represents corrections workers, to make the submissions, Renu Mandhane said.
Their main recommendation is to address overcrowding, she added.
"There are cells that were originally designed for two people that are housing four people," said Mandhane, who has toured the Thunder Bay jail before. "And what it means is that there is a high degree of stress amongst both inmates and correctional staff, and a lot of correctional staff end up taking sick leaves ... and that has a real impact on lockdowns, on the ability to get programming, on even lawyer visits."
One individual was housed in a phone booth, she said.
In preparing their submissions for the government, the commission and the union chose to focus on "quick things to save lives," she added, rather than focusing on longer term projects such as new infrastructure or new legislation.
She urged elected officials to tour jails such as Thunder Bay's for themselves in order to appreciate the need for investment.
"I don't think you quite understand what people are talking about when they talk about the crisis in corrections until you see four people in a space that can't be much bigger than 12 by six with one person sleeping on the floor with their legs straddling a toilet," she said.
If society wants people to be rehabilitated, it has to start by treating them like human beings, she added.
"When you tour these facilities," she said, "you really see that we aren't even meeting that very most basic minimum standard."