Ont. Tories propose manual labour for prisoners

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives say if they are elected in the fall, they would force convicted prisoners in provincial facilities to work up to 40 hours a week of manual labour.
Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak plans to put inmates to work if his party is elected this fall. (Canadian Press)

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives say if they are elected in the fall, they would force convicted prisoners in provincial facilities  to work up to 40 hours a week of manual labour.

 "An honest day's work never hurt anybody. In fact, it helps," Tim Hudak, the leader of the party, said Thursday at a news conference announcing the proposal.

Hudak criticized the current jail system for providing  what he called prisoner perks such as yoga classes and writing workshops.

Under the Tory plan, prisoners would pick up garbage along rural highways, cut grass and clean graffiti along city streets, among other similar tasks.

They would receive "credits" for the work, which they could redeem for television, coffee time or other "rewards."

If the plan is implemented, Ontario would become the first province with a mandatory work program for inmates.

The program would cost about $20 million — five per cent of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services budget.

'Catch and release'

The ruling Liberals scoffed at the plan dubbing it "Tim Hudak's catch-and-release approach to crime."

Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley said inmates belong behind bars.

"We believe they should not be out in our neighbourhoods, on the streets of our communties because they are a danger to the people of our communities."

Bradley said the plan would "endanger communities by putting thousands of convicted criminals in our parks and neighbourhoods with our kids and families."

"The McGuinty government believes convicted criminals belong behind bars, so that our communities, our kids and our families are safe and secure."

Hudak brushed aside such concerns.

"We'll have prison guards who will watch prisoners when they're out cleaning up garbage and cutting grass," he said. "We'll work with our superintendents in corrections on how to do that and ensure we maintain public safety."

Inmates in provincially run jails are serving sentences of less than two years.