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Jail workers meet with task force

Bruce Hain: The Mirror
Nov. 1, 2002

A handful of workers from the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC), a youth probation officer, and a part-time Collingwood resident were the only attendees at a task force meeting on correctional services Wednesday night. The session was sponsored by the Ministry of Public Safety and Security. The task force, struck on Sept. 17, has a mandate to study ways to deliver a no-frills prison system that ensures public safety, and holds offenders accountable.

The meeting, held at Horseshoe Valley Resort, was the second in a series of forums across the province. The workers at the CNCC didn't wish to comment on why they attended the session, or give their names. Their comments were heard by the three committee members. Media was not permitted to sit in the room as people addressed the task force. However, one female CNCC worker admitted she wanted to know "what was happening to my job?"

There was also a private meeting held Wednesday afternoon for representatives of both the staff, and management of the CNCC, also known as the Penetanguishene superjail.

Jeanne Harris, a Barrie-based probation officer, said she attended in order to present her views on probation to the panel.

"I strongly believe probation is a helpful service," Harris stated. "It not only provides supervision of offenders, and helps prevent further crime through programming. I'd like to see that continue in the future. I was a bit concerned about the 'no-frills' approach."

In her 27 years of working with young offenders, Harris said she had seen a lot of changes in the system.

'I'm not critical, but there have been cutbacks. You can only cut out so much before the system is crippled."

John Anderson of Collingwood said that as a private citizen, he wants to know if a no-frills approach means a get tough attitude with persons in the prison system.

"If they are going to be tough, how will they not create tougher people?" Anderson asked. "And how much money is going to be spent being tough?"

Anderson added that in his opinion, government penal policies are "making it tougher on people who are already in a tough situation. This is just a Band-Aid process."

Task force chairperson Tim Millard said his committee is hearing a lot about the system having to be more accountable for public safety.

He acknowledged labour relations has become a flash point, and as a result, "we are looking at the right-to-strike, and is there a better way to resolve disputes. We are hearing in spades from both labour and management - they want a better way."

When asked about the merits of privatization, vis-a-vis the super jail, Millard said the jury was still out.

"It's too early to make a decision," he said.

Offenders shouldn't expect an easy ride while imprisoned, Millard said.

"No frills will address efficiency and effectiveness in correcting people's behaviours. (Jails) aren't a place where you will come and enjoy amenities."

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