Ontario Continues Building Correctional Workforce

TORONTO, Ontario — The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services on Jan. 29 announced plans to recruit 180 new correctional officers to work throughout the province. The new group of correctional workers will help increase staffing levels, enhance program delivery and improve overall staff and inmate safety, according to a statement from the ministry.

New correctional officers will be placed specifically in facilities in Fort Frances, Kenora, Thunder Bay, Lindsay, Napanee, Ottawa, Monteith, Sault St. Marie and Brantford. Their hiring will also help ensure that staff levels grow beyond normal turnover and retirement rates, and that correctional staffs better reflect the communities they serve in terms of race and ethnicity. Adding new correctional officers and upgrading correctional facilities is also a key part of the province’s transformation of its correctional system in order to build safer communities, according to a statement.

The incoming correctional officers will participate in an 8-week Correctional Officer Training and Assessment program, during which they will receive mental health training, an education in inmate management techniques and thorough assessment and evaluation before being placed in a position. This round of new hires is the latest in a steady stream of staffing expansions. Since 2013, the province has hired 571 new correctional officers; an additional 143 currently in training are set to graduate in March. More than 90 new correctional officers were hired in December 2015 alone.

“Ontario’s correctional officers play a vital role in helping to keep our communities safe,” said Yasir Naqvi, minister of community safety and correctional services, in a statement. “Further increasing staffing levels with the recruitment of 180 new correctional officers is a key part of our strategy to transform Ontario’s correctional system to better support staff and inmates, and the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals into the community.”

Currently the ministry employs nearly 7,000 workers across the province. In a letter to the province’s correctional and justice employees, Naqvi wrote that correctional leaders understand correctional officers’ “work hard in a challenging environment, and that it is your efforts and dedication every single day that keep our communities safe.”

Naqvi added that the ministry will, “continuing to roll out enhanced mental health training for staff, providing greater diversion opportunities for those better assisted in alternative settings, reducing caseloads, and continuing our comprehensive review of the segregation policy that is currently underway.” These initiatives will be supported by other investments, such as the new Regional Intermittent Centre in London, and other infrastructure upgrades throughout the correctional system.