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Canada: PCI’s liaison keeps at it.
Dion continues battle against private jail
Kim Goggins
The Mirror
Fri, Dec 16th, 2005

A local woman has taken her fight to Queen's Park to have Central North Correctional Centre publicly operated.

Sharon Dion of Citizens Against Private Prisons met with MPP Liz Sandals, parliamentary assistant to Monte Kwinter, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, on Monday to discuss her concerns about Management and Training Corporation.

She also met with Brant MPP Dave Levac in a separate meeting.

Levac was the Liberal Opposition Critic for Corrections when the Tories were in power and was a vocal opponent of the privatization of the super jail in Penetanguishene.

"My goal was to remind the Liberal party of their promise to end the private prison culture in Ontario," Dion told The Mirror.

"I provided Ms. Sandals with paperwork to enlighten her of the patterns and practices of the documented mismanagement of MTC, both here and in the U.S."

There is one year left of the province's current five-year contract with MTC but, as per contract stipulations, the government must decide by May 2006 whether to extend the contract for another year; extend the contract up to five years, based on an agreement of financial terms; re-tender the contract; or return the prison to the public service.

The contract decision-making process has begun and will continue into the new year. MTC will be rated in four key areas: effectiveness; efficiency; sustainability and viability into the future; and relevance to the community.

During the meeting with Sandals, Dion talked about inmate deaths, violence and staff issues at the privately-run facility.

"We talked about the inadequate health care that caused the death of Jeffrey Elliot, the stabbings, the murder, riot, staff safety, low staff levels and high staff turnover, and (correctional officer) Dwight Stoneman's brutal beating," she noted.

Consultants from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) have begun to interview people from key groups to ensure the information the government has is accurate. They have already interviewed members of Penetang-uishene Council.

Mayor Anita Dubeau and councillors Dan La Rose and Doug Leroux told The Mirror they believe MTC is a good operator of the jail and expressed no concerns about the operation of the facility during the meeting with PWC.

"The town doesn't have a problem with the way the jail is being operated," noted La Rose. "We just have a problem with the province not kicking in their share of the taxes (and instead, providing $75 per bed in lieu of taxes that is afforded all government-run facilities)."

Members of the Southern Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce, board of monitors at the jail, and staff at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will also be interviewed. Dion - who has extensively researched the issue of private prisons, as well as MTC's track record in the United States and Penetanguishene - will not.

That is why she arranged her own meeting with the ministry, she said.

"I told them I am not going away and I would continue to find every avenue to stop private prisons in Canada," said Dion.

When contacted by The Mirror, Sandals said Dion provided valuable information to the decision-making process.

"When you have any issue, not just the jail, part of the role of a politician is to take the professional input from their staff and political input from the community, and make a decision which takes both of those into consideration," said Sandals, MPP for Guelph-Wellington.

"So, what is happening here is that Sharon obviously had a chance to provide input to the political part of that decision making."

Currently, a comparison study is taking place between the publicly-run Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay and CNCC. These results will also be included in the input to the ministry.

Sandals told The Mirror that Dion's information has been given to the minister's office and will move forward.

"It was a really useful meeting. We wanted to hear what Sharon had to say because the contract is coming due towards the end of 2006," said Sandals. "So this is the point where we will get into a more formal review process. It was an excellent opportunity to hear what Sharon had to say."

Levac praised Dion for her preparedness.

"Sharon has been tenacious as always. What I love about Sharon is she always comes prepared," he said, noting he's hopeful the jail will become publicly operated.

"She's factual. She's not emotional about it. She brings passion to the situation but I have to tell you that she's probably one of the most prepared people I've ever dealt with and worked with."

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