Ontario Hiring More Staff and Enhancing Supports to Reform Correctional Services
Province Investing in a Safer System and Improved Inmate Outcomes
Ontario is taking action to reform the provincial correctional system by increasing access to health care services, improving conditions of confinement and supporting rehabilitation and reintegration programming for adult inmates.
The government's plan to address immediate priorities in the system will support improvements such as better access to programs and services, improved facilities and more time out of cells for those in segregation and those with mental health issues.
New initiatives include:
- Hiring an additional 239 staff to increase supports for inmates, particularly those with significant challenges related to long-term segregation. This includes: 24 correctional officers, 22 nurses, 22 mental health nurses, 22 social workers, 32 recreational staff and eight psychologists, in addition to 46 institutional managers and other program staff
- Enhancing services for inmates on remand and those serving custodial sentences to ensure they have access to a standardized set of core services, spiritual services and programming with a focus on enhanced mental health and well-being of inmates
- Implementing dedicated segregation managers at institutions with higher segregation rates to help reduce the use of segregation and support inmates as they transition back to general population
- Retrofitting, repairing and repurposing existing spaces, including common rooms and yards, for example installing TVs, changing/upgrading doors and repainting and creating new day areas
To better support adult inmates with mental health issues, the province will:
- Increase the availability of clinical supports for inmates with mental health issues
- Provide additional mental health court support workers
- Fund two pilot programs in Toronto and Hamilton to provide specialty psychiatric beds for acutely ill inmates who have needs that are too complex for general hospitals
- Provide additional release from custody workers to help improve the reintegration of offenders with mental illness as they transition back into the community, helping to reduce the likelihood of re-offending
- Expand the availability of "safe beds," which provide time-limited emergency housing for people experiencing a mental health crisis with high-intensity care as an alternative to hospital or jail
- Develop cross-training programs for detention centre staff to help them better manage people with mental health challenges and seclusion protocols.
Reforming Ontario's correctional system is part of the government's plan to keep communities safe and support rehabilitation and reintegration.
- There are 26 adult correctional facilities in Ontario. These include correctional centres, detention centres, jails and treatment centres.
- In March 2016, Ontario committed to hiring 2,000 correctional officers over the next three years to increase staffing levels at Ontario's correctional facilities, enhance access to rehabilitation and reintegration programming, strengthen mental health supports and improve staff and inmate safety.
- On November 8, 2016, the government announced that Howard Sapers would lead an independent review into the use of segregation in the province’s correctional institutions.
- On December 1, 2016, Ontario announced a plan to make the criminal justice system faster and fairer while enhancing public safety by reducing time-to-trial and improving the bail system.
“This investment will allow us to start making the changes that are needed to truly reform correctional services in Ontario. Our approach focusses on providing supports to those facilities and individuals who face the biggest challenges in terms of long-term segregation. While we recognize that there is still significant work to be done, this initial investment will help us make immediate, tangible change while we continue to work on long-term reform across the system.”
“It is critical that inmates with mental health challenges have the supports and treatment they need. Ontario is committed to ensuring that people with mental health challenges are connected with the right services so they can live well and interactions with the justice system can be avoided.”
“Being involved in the justice system can provide an individual an opportunity, often their first, to access mental health services that can make a positive difference in their lives. We’re grateful the government recognizes the important benefits that enhanced supports can provide for individuals living with a mental illness during incarceration and re-integration into society.”
“Robust mental health services and supports are central to ensuring correctional facilities are humane places for facilitating healing and recovery. The comprehensive set of initiatives announced today will go a long way to removing obstacles to recovery and community integration for people with mental illness.”
Dr. Catherine Zahn