Charter Rights
Story Archives
Sign Our Guestbook
View Guestbook
Contact Capp @   or   Post Comments  CAPP Message Board   and  Any Upcoming Events

Locals react to Quebec prison plan

By Raymond Bowe
Midland Free Press
January 28, 2005

Local News - The province of Quebec is considering privatizing a portion of its prison system.

With Penetanguishene's Central North Correctional Centre — Canada's first privately operated adult jail — in our backyard, local opponents and proponents of privatization are both warning and encouraging politicians in Quebec to either kill the plan or give it the green light.

Union representatives for Quebec's guards vowed last week to fight any private jail.

"We will never accept cashing in on people's safety in Quebec," Michel Hubert, president of Quebec's provincial prison guards union, told the Montreal Gazette.

Correctional officers attended a news conference in Sorel, Quebec, and later marched to a nearby prison where they staged a mock burial of the concept of public safety.

Two Quebec jails could close if the government decides to build a new facility, as the provincial government is exploring the possibility of a public-private partnership, similar to CNCC.

CNCC is operated by Management and Training Corporation, and Quebec officials have contacted MTC and toured the Penetang prison.

"They're still in the feeling-out process there," said Carl Stuart, MTC's communications director from the company's head office in Centerville, Utah. "If it gets to the point of doing bids, we'd certainly take a look at it. We've certainly enjoyed our time in Canada."

MTC has a five-year contract to run CNCC, which opened in November, 2001.

Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop has supported the so-called superjail and the concept of privatization from the outset.

"I can understand why a province would want to look at (privatization) because it's very expensive to run those type of facilities," said Dunlop.

Dunlop's advice to Quebec officials is come to Penetanguishene and speak with people on both sides of the argument.

Citizens Against Private Prisons member Sharon Dion said, "I think the province of Quebec had better research their decision, and look at the long-term effects of privatization. It's not a quick fix or an economic boost."

She believes prisons are a provincial responsibility, and private operators are more accountable to shareholders than government.

"Quebec needs to look at these factors," said Dion, in addition to higher recidivism rates which are "good for business."

There are also "hidden" costs paid for by the community with a private prison, said Dion, including hospitals, ambulance, law enforcement and even fire-fighting capabilities. "Taxpayers pay for those problems," she said.

The superjail's a prototype for how to make privatization work, says Dunlop.

"I would model (the one in Quebec) right after this one," said Dunlop, including a partnership where the province builds the facility and a company runs it.

"That's the best protection for the taxpayer,” said the Tory MPP. “It's an excellent partnership and I've defended it since Day 1. It makes sense."

Though concerns have been raised on numerous fronts regarding CNCC medical care — including by the former head of emergency at Midland's hospital — Dunlop said he's received "very few complaints."

Barry Scanlon, from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union's corrections division, spoke at the Quebec demonstration and cited some CNCC incidents as reasons Quebec should reconsider privatization.

One scenario was the death of inmate Jeffrey Elliott, who died in September, 2003, from a type of blood poisoning after sustaining a cut to his hand. Last fall, a coroner's jury ruled the death accidental.

Three others have died at the prison or in hospital. Two inquests determined the deaths were accidental. An inquest into the death of Minh Tu has yet to be scheduled. The 28-year-old inmate died May 5, 2004, from a stab wound.

Scanlon, who has worked in corrections for 21 years, told The Free Press he also has concerns over CNCC staffing levels.

"As a Canadian, I have a problem with an American company coming up here and running a place short-staffed," said Scanlon, who said there are about 30 to 35 less staff working at CNCC versus its sister facility, Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, operated by the province. "There's about $3 million a year going to Utah."

Last August, prison administrator Doug Thomson, who resigned in November, dispelled that notion during a sit-down interview with The Free Press.

"There's not a lot of money, no matter what people perceive," Thomson said. "You hear stories about the money going south, but the reality is most of the money is spent here in Ontario."

In addition to CNCC staffing concerns, Scanlon's other issues include "terrible" medical care, staff benefits, transparency and accountability.

Further comparing CECC and CNCC, Scanlon said the Lindsay facility hasn't had the "bugs" CNCC has witnessed, noting there have been no murders nor has the staff turnover rate been so high at the provincially operated jail in Lindsay.

"The turnover rate (at CNCC) is enormous," said Scanlon, who claims 200 staff have either left or been fired since it opened, a 66-per-cent turnover rate.

In September, a correctional officer said CNCC has about 180 guards compared to about 320 at CECC.

However, exact figures have never been released as officials cite compromising security as the main reason not to divulge that information.

Internal staff memos have also addressed inadequate staffing levels, despite surpassing ministry numbers.
ID- 95582

Printed from web site Thursday, February 03, 2005 - © 2005 Midland Free Press

| Post Any Upcoming Events | Top of Page | Home Page | Post Comments on Message Board |