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Canada: MTC Facility Has Lots of Complaints.

July 02, 2004
Raymond Bowe

PENETANGUISHENE The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services continues to generate the largest number of complaints to the provincial ombudsman's office at more than 7,500 each year.

Corrections complaints account for about one-third, or 7,640 of 22,753, according to Ombudsman Ontario's 2003-2004 annual report.

Across the board at all provincial correctional facilities the most common concerns are the adequacy of health care, medication, and staff conduct.

"This high number of complaints received is not surprising," says Clare Lewis, Ontario Ombudsman, in the report, "considering that inmates in provincial correctional facilities are dependent on the ministry for such basic needs as their food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

"Despite the prevalence of correctional complaints, I do wish to express my understanding of the difficult issues the ministry faces," says Lewis, particularly the efforts of senior management striving to achieve a humane environment.

Gail Scala, communications manager at the ombudsman's office at Queen's Park, said complaints are wide-ranging.

"If you look at the case studies set out in the report, there is a good cross-section (of complaints) we receive an an ongoing basis," Scala told The Free Press.

Victoria Broughton, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services whose jurisdiction includes prisons, said the ministry strives to comply with any recommendations handed down from the ombudsman.

"The ombudsman's report did make note that we are improving on concerns," said Broughton, and the goal is to meet those demands quickly and effectively.

Broughton notes the ministry is obligated to providing services in a "humane, just and respectful manner," which includes everything from food to health care to hygiene.

"We remain accountable for the delivery of correctional services," Broughton said, and the ministry has performance outcomes and standards both in private and public facilities it strives to meet.

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