Thunder Bay

OPSEU president calls for new jail for Thunder Bay, Ont.

It's time to replace the 100-year-old district jail in Thunder Bay, and start investing more money in the entire provincial corrections system, says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union.

'Massive effort' needed to improve conditions for staff, inmates in Ontario jails says union leader

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, wants the provincial government to build a new jail in Thunder Bay and increase its spending on the entire corrections system. (Jody Porter/CBC)

It's time to replace the 100-year-old district jail in Thunder Bay, and start investing more money in the entire provincial corrections system, says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union.

The call comes following a hostage taking at the jail in December 2015, an escape in October 2016 and the revelation that one man, Adam Capay, had spent four years in solitary confinement

The recent hiring of nearly 2,000 new prison officers is welcome, but shortages in other professions must also be addressed, Thomas said.

"They're short of nursing staff, short of psychology staff, short of social workers. It would be great to see them bring recreational staff and occupational therapists back into the facility," said Thomas.

Ontario jails are "short of nursing staff, short of psychology staff, short of social workers," says OPSEU President Warren Smokey Thomas. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
Those types of new positions would allow jails to "bring some programming back so that people have an opportunity to enter into some rehab while they're in jail and perhaps come back out not so bitter, but maybe with a new perspective or at least a leg up on turning their lives around," he said.

There must also be more collaboration at the cabinet table, Thomas added.

Ministries such as health, community services, and the attorney general's office must start working together to improve conditions for inmates and staff.

"A lot of problems in jails are caused by cuts to mental health services, hospital services," said Thomas.

"It's not going to be fixed in one year, two years or three years, but it's going to take a massive effort on the part of several government ministries to fix and undo the damage of the years."

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