Ontario must target violence in its jails
TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – New statistics document a sharp rise in violence in Ontario’s overcrowded jails.
Apr 07 2014. Editorial
No one expects a stint in jail to be a peaceful experience. But in Ontario, correctional facilities have increasingly become institutions of violence and, for some prisoners, even worse.
As the Canadian Press reports, data obtained through a freedom of information request shows that attacks in the province’s 29 adult correctional institutions have jumped by almost one-third, with 3,000 assaults in 2012-13 compared to 2,300 five years earlier. That’s a big move in the wrong direction.
Given that Ontario Ombudsman André Marin published a damning report on jailhouse violence just last year, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services must make improvements by targeting the source of violence. It should start with overcrowded living conditions, where the problems are well-documented and can no longer be ignored.
To its credit, the ministry has acknowledged problems by promising a crackdown on violence, as well as better staff training, surprise audits and zero tolerance for violence from both inmates and guards. By the end of this year, the ministry says it will have two new correctional facilities that promise to create a more “humane” environment by focusing on personal interaction between inmates and guards. The Toronto South Detention Centre is already open and a similar facility in Windsor is expected to be operating soon.
It’s a start, but little will change without major improvements to overcrowding. The ministry’s own figures show that most of Ontario’s 29 jails hold more prisoners than they were designed for, and cells meant for two people can hold three or more.
It’s become a sadly familiar story. The government has had ample warning of this festering problem and a fix is long overdue.
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