Thunder Bay

Staffing relief for Thunder Bay District Jail may be coming, union says

The Thunder Bay District Jail continues to struggle with overcrowding and understaffing, however the union says some relief for the latter may be coming soon.

Correctional officers from southern Ontario facilities could transfer to Thunder Bay for short-term postings

Correctional officers from elsewhere in Ontario may soon transfer to the Thunder Bay District Jail on a short-term basis to help with staffing shortages. (Jody Porter/CBC)

The Thunder Bay District Jail continues to struggle with overcrowding and understaffing, however the union says some relief for the latter may be coming soon.

Brad Slobodian, correctional officer and president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union local 737, which represents workers at the jail, said he's made a request for correctional officers from elsewhere in Ontario who want to work at the Thunder Bay jail on a short-term basis.

And some responses have started to arrive.

"I asked for this last May, because I knew this was coming," he said. "They dragged their feet up until it got up to a crisis situation again."

Slobodian said inquiries have come from union representatives in other institutions in southern Ontario, including Hamilton and Windsor.

Any transferring correctional officers would work in Thunder Bay on a short-term basis, likely just a few months, Slobodian said. But they'd be a big help at the jail, which is struggling with a shortage of staff.

The inmate count as of this past weekend was 178; the jail was designed to hold about 140.

"I would like to see, I would say, at least 20 [more staff]," Slobodian said.

Meanwhile, the provincial Ministry of the Solicitor General said a new correctional centre is coming to Thunder Bay.

The project was originally announced in 2017, and then re-affirmed in April 2019, but work has yet to begin.

On the Infrastructure Ontario website, the project is still listed as being in the request-for-qualifications (RFQ) phase.

That phase started in March 2018. A ministry spokesperson told CBC News the RFQ is in its final stages of evaluation, and a building team will soon be chosen.

The spokesperson also said in the statement that the "government has engaged front line correctional staff and management to gather input and advice about building a new facility which will inform the design phase.

Slobodian said he's part of that group, but it hasn't met since August 2018.

"They were supposed to come up here at the end of September, that didn't happen," he said. "Now, I'm told they're coming up at the end of [October], or early November."